Impressionism and mesmerizing beasts

After finding out about strange machines invented by men, let’s turn to the strange animals invented by men as well.

We are talking talk about Theo Jansen, Dutch artist who dedicated a great deal of his life to the creation of kinetic sculptures named Strandbeest (Dutch: strand=beach; beest=beast).

And you are probably wondering, what have the Impressionists to do with these mechanic creatures? Well, they are distant relatives. Kinetic art takes its origins from the movement of Impressionists and their experiments with depicting motion. Nowadays, after years and years of interest in the topic of movement and dynamics on the canvas as well as in sculptures, kinetic art has grown into a separate art form, that primarily stands for any object that can actually move or show some kind of motion.

But let’s come back to Theo Jansen’s story. His main interest is not only movement. He actually started as a landscape painter, but quickly became interested in other things. Like UFOs, for instance. In 1979, Jansen built a flying object filled with helium and launched it in the sky. It had caused quite a sensation, while the size of the “UFO” was hard to guess because of the clever coloring and construction. During this project, he used cheap yellow plastic pipes that were very common in Holland. Since then, it became his favorite material.

The idea of Strandbeests came to Theo Jansen as a solution to the problem of sea levels rising in Holland. It had been a great threat for the artist’s homeland, so in 1990, Jansen has decided to invent wind-powered mechanisms that would move the sand around and keep the balance between dry land and the water, in much the same way beavers do on the fen-lands of the Netherlands. This kinetic animals have occupied him ever since. Artist himself tells that he has invented new breed of species that can walk, produce sounds, surmount obstacles and adjust to the changing environment. Made out of already mentioned plastic tubes and recycled bottles, Strandbeests wonder around the seaside accompanied by a symphony of windy melodies.

Connecting engineering with art, Theo Jansen dreams of creating a new kind of nature and letting his wonderful beasts into the wild. While his ideas and mechanisms sound dreamy, Jansen’s inventions go deeper into such philosophical subjects as the origins of life and creation of artificial life. These questions are highly disputable in the world of science, as well as in the art world. Artist himself has expressed the intention of adjusting some kind of AI system to his creatures, so they could have a completely autonomous life. And we believe that due to such beautiful collaboration between art and science, we will be able to observe more marvelous inventions in the nearest future.