March of the Wind Powered ‘Strandbeests’ on the Blustery Shores of the North Sea

by Carolyn Sotka

strandbeests

One of the Strandbeests. Photo by Lena Herzog from The New Yorker’s article on artist Theo Jansen.

Since 1990, artist Theo Jansen has been creating ‘Strandbeests’, which translates to beach animals in Dutch. The strandbeests are assembled from stiff plastic tubes and then animated by wind to walk like alien creatures along the shore. 

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Video from the Strandbeest Webshop.

The kinetic beasts were originally designed to throw sand onto degraded dunes to help protect against loss from storm surge or sea level rise. What has occurred since then, are multiple generations of Strandbeests – divided much like geologic eras and each christened with a scientific-like name such as Animaris Duabus Caudis.

According to Jansen’s Web site, he makes these skeletons to walk on the wind, so they don’t have to eat. His vision is to have herds of Strandbeests, that are self sustained to roam and live their own lives.

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According to Jansen, “Reality is very creative. Maybe that is why the Strandbeests appear to be alive, and charm us. The Strandbeests themselves have let me make them.”  Photo by Marco Zwinkles

In The New Yorker article “The March of the Strandbeests” Jansen  describes what the Strandbeests mean to him, and how others relate to the creatures. “The walking Strandbeest is a body snatcher,” it charms people and then uses them so they can’t do anything else but follow, and I am the worst victim, you could say. All the time I think about them. Always I have a new plan, but then it is corrected by the requirements of the tubes. They dictate to me what to do. At the end of my working day, I am almost always depressed. Mine is not a straight path like an engineer’s, it’s not A to B. I make a very curly road just by the restrictions of goals and materials. A real engineer would probably solve the problem differently, maybe make an aluminum robot with motor and electric sensors and all that. But the solutions of engineers are often much alike, because human brains are much alike. Everything we think can in principle be thought by someone else. The real ideas, as evolution shows, come about by chance.”

Visit Jansen’s Web site to learn more and take a tour of his Webshop, where he sells assembly kits, so you can make your very own mini Strandbeest! -CS

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