Dutch artist Theo Jansen has been working for 16 years to create sculptures that move on their own in eerily lifelike ways. Each generation of his “Strandbeests” is subject to the forces of evolution, with successful forms moving forward into new designs. Jansen’s vision and long-term commitment to his wooden menagerie is as fascinating to observe as the beasts themselves.
His newest creatures walk without assistance on the beaches of Holland, powered by wind, captured by gossamer wings that flap and pump air into old lemonade bottles that in turn power the creatures’ many plastic spindly legs. The walking sculptures look alive as they move, each leg articulating in such a way that the body is steady and level. They even incorporate primitive logic gates that are used to reverse the machine’s direction if it senses dangerous water or loose sand where it might get stuck.
Artist Theo Jansen studied science at the University of Delft in Holland. After sticking to painting for seven years, he embarked upon a project with a flying saucer - which really flew. It flew over the town of Delft in 1980, drawing the people into the streets and sending the police into pandemonium. For about the last ten years he has been busy with the creation of a new nature - not with pollen or seeds, but with plastic yellow tubes. He makes skeletons which are able to walk in the wind. Eventually he wants to put herds of these animals out on the beaches to live their own lives.