#785 Blurring the Lines: Theo Jansen and His Strandbeest

While looking for materials on what to write for kompetiblog2012, I remember a certain website filled with videos of intellectuals giving talks on their field of works, http://www.ted.com. I was first introduced to TED and, respectively TED Talks, by my professors who’d often show videos of architects giving lectures on their buildings and whatnot. I actually went to the website to look for a talk done by the Dutch architect, Rem Koolhaas. Instead, what I found was, in my opinion, better than any architecture talks could ever be. I discovered Theo Jansen and his incredible, mind boggling Strandbeest.

Strandbeest literally means “Beach Beast”. Though upon looking at it, you wouldn’t really call it a beast.

A little background about Jansen, he is a kinetic sculptor with a background in physics. Growing up, he was interested in both physics and art and was involved in many projects that utilizes both fields. He managed to combine both science and art, two things that many people think cannot go together, in what he calls a new form of life, the Strandbeest.

Strandbeest, as stated on this website, is a new form of life made not out of seeds or pollens, but of plastic yellow tubings. They are made to “walk on the wind”. His vision is “to put these animals out in herds on the beaches, so they will live their own lives”.

Interesting wording, eh?

If you watch him talking about these sculptures (here’s a link), you can see that he doesn’t treat them as merely sculptures, but as actual living beings, as alive as the many crabs that you see walking on the beach. He uses terms like ‘teaching them how to walk’, ‘they’re not ready to go out on their own’, and ‘they don’t need to eat’. Just the general way he refers to his strandbeest shows how much he treats them as more than just moving sculptures. These things have central brains, muscles, legs, muzzles, things that you would associate with a creature. Each prototype even has its own name, such as Animaris gubernare, much like one would call the domesticated dog by its scientific name, Canis lupis familiaris.

Watching these creatures move is, as cliche as it sounds, like watching poetry in motion. Its legs move in such a synchronized way, reminiscence of a centipede’s legs in motion. Most of them have some kind of a wing mechanism that turns the wind into moving power. The power from the wind is then stored in bottles by way of pressurized air. The mechanism is designed in such a way that the pressurized air is released one bottle at a time. The released air then push pistons that act like muscles to move the legs. It’s kind of hard to describe in such a short article, but you can read the full article here if you want. (WARNING: lots of science contents and probably not enough pictures for your liking. But do check it out if you’re curious.)

What I love so much about these creatures, and Theo Jansen himself, is that he managed to take the quirky thinking of an artist and combine it with the logical thinking of a scientist. He showed us that science and art can indeed be combined into one marvelous creation. It reignited my hope that one day I could become an artist that is also a scientist.

To those who don’t believe that science and art can’t coexist, look at Theo Jansen’s Strandbeest and tell me otherwise.

– ditulis oleh Dea R. Komala

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