PINKY SAYS: THEO JANSEN KINETIC SCULPTURE

THAT THING IS WALKING!

Theo Jansen? You say you have never heard of him? Yes you might have seen his work but not connected an artist’s name to it. Jansen is a Dutch artist working in Delft and he is what is known as a single name artist in Europe. Everyone refers to him simply as Theo, pronounced Tayo. For the past 22 years he has been constructing animals that can walk on the beach powered only by the wind. The works are known as Strandbeests or “beach animals” in Dutch. The best description of them is that they are many legged creatures that seem as at home on a beach as crabs or sandpipers. They seem to fit in perfectly next to the waves and the sky as the wind makes them dance. The primary art medium that Theo uses is an aggregation of stiff plastic tubes although he also uses plywood and batwing like sails. The plastic tubes are well known in Holland because all electric wiring must be enclosed in them.

Theo’s creatures have never been brought to America but there are plans to bring the work to New York. His fans have been working with the Netherlands Consul General director of art, architecture and design. The work has received extraordinary press on You Tube where it has had four million hits. In it his beests run and walk along the beach as though they were high stepping colts out for a prance. His first recognition came from a flying saucer he created in 1980. This was plastic sheeting filled with helium on a light frame which he launched over Delft. The device emitted outer space beeps and terrorized and astounded all of Delft in a performance akin to Orson Welles 1939 War of the Worlds. The piece looked and behaved as a flying saucer might with the powerful winds making it hover and then dart in and out of the clouds. The saucer then vanished in the direction of Belgium. All kinds of fears filled the citizens of Delft and Theo’s fame was established.

Theo studied physics at the university level but he is uncertain as to whether he is an artist, a sculptor, or an engineer. Theo is extremely handsome with long white hair and deep blue eyes. At 63 he is a striking figure and this certainly adds to his celebrity. All of the works continue their existence in videos that show them being created and then striking out across the beaches with their creator in full view. The strandbeests continue their celebrations in videos that record their travels. One art critic has noted that he is really a landscape artist whose works celebrate and point up to the viewer the classical dune, sea, and sky of Holland. The works are intricate and amazing and have been exhibited in Munich, London, Taipei, Madrid, Tokyo and Seoul in art museums and science centers. Theo states that he could care less in which of these places his work appears.

Theo is ambitious; he is attempting to create works that are beautiful but also depict the actual fact that the seas are rising. Holland is the lowland that has been created by dikes; it will be the land most likely to disappear first should climate change continue. Perhaps this is his commentary on the future. In a way the beests are almost wild new kinds of windmills where nature and technology and warnings meet. People who have gathered to watch an installation in Holland have been astounded and it is regularly commented upon when they laugh and shout “That thing is walking!”

The thought of sending you a photograph entered our mind, but you really must see the strandbeests moving and walking across the sands. And so for this reason we suggest that you google you tube — Theo Jansen Strandbeests and see them for yourselves. Just remember you heard it here first! =

4 Responses to PINKY SAYS: THEO JANSEN KINETIC SCULPTURE

  • Bob says:

    Beth, I went to YouTube and watched his “creatures” walk along the beach. What an interesting man and his inventions are incredible. Thanks for posting about him and his work.

  • Beth says:

    Bob, Pinky is such a treasure trove of artist information. I love that she guest blogs once a month on Beth’s Everything Blog and shares her incredible knowledge with the rest of us.

  • Mike Lance says:

    Thank you for drawing my attention to his incredible work. As an ex-engineer (are you ever ex?), an admirer of art, and concerned with planetary issues, I am fascinated from three vistas.

  • Beth says:

    I agree. The work is awesome and getting the chance to see it, albeit U Tube, is a testament to the advances the internet is making in opening up the world to us all.

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