At the beaches of Netherlands, the artist-engineer Theo Jansen chose a different path of those followed by who uses wind to give shape to mills or hot-air balloons. From plastic yellow tubes, Jansen creates sculptures moved by wind which remind me pre-historical animals, on an expression of kinetic art.
The "sand animals", on the words of the artist (or strandbeests, in Dutch), are designed from computer models which allows Jansen to optimize the movements of the structures. Thus, the sculptures become able to walk on the sand, avoiding obstacles and going back in the presence of water, thanks to really simple mechanisms based on binary code.
Inspired on Darwin's theory of evolution, the artist improves his animals on a trial-and-error basis. After creating a "sand animal" and observing its behavior when passing through the atmospheric and geographic conditions of the beaches, Jansen declares the extinction of the sculpture and starts working at the next creation, correcting the problems which were detected at its antecessor.
Becoming the sculptures able to "survive" by themselves at the beaches -- without Jansen' aid -- is the final aim. By now, the artist solved the locomotor's part of the structures, the energy's storage and the adaptation under adverse conditions. The lower parts of the sculptures, similar to legs, get moved keeping the axis on the same level, turning the walk on the sand as easy as possible.
However, inside what Jansen calls the "animals' stomach", are put many empty bottles which store air aiming an energetic supply. The compressed air will be used at low wind heights. At last, thanks to the simple mechanisms also made with plastic tubes, the sand animals can avoid the water and bury a stake into the sand on periods of heavy storms.
How can it be possible? The first mechanism works based on a tube that sucks air as it gets closer to the sand. From the moment that the tube sucks water on, it finds resistance and makes that whole structure move on another direction. Concerning about storms, the heavy wind puts in action a mechanism similar to a hammer which buries a tube into the sand, working like an anchor.
His most recent creation, baptized as Animaris Siamesis, shows two animals in one. The Siamese sculptures are steadily holding one each other -- something which avoids the breakdowns made by the strong coastal winds. Besides, Animaris Siamesis also has the biggest stomach in comparison with other creations made by Jansen, representing a step forward on his creational process towards to evolution.
Jansen started to create the Strandbeets 21 years ago. The plastic tubes he uses are cheap, weightless and look like bones, providing to the sculptures the appearance of skeletons. Before starting this life adventure, this artist-engineer studied Physics at Delft University -- and, at his first big kinetic project, he created an UFO which got the Delft inhabitants terrified. Now, his sand animals cause astonishment and enthusiasm on kids and adults. Despite the aesthetic effect of the sculptures, Jansen confesses that he's more concerned about the operational part of the new animal at the planning point. However, when it's finished, the beauty of the animal rises up, even if the functional part is not so perfect.
The kinetic art conceptions reach the aesthetic purpose when put in movement or when they have mobile parts, and it can be made both through the wind and conventional motors. The first kinetic sculpture can be assigned to Marcel Duchamp and, since then, artists from all over the world have made us dazzled. For Theo Jansen, the frontiers between art and engineering are only in mind. So, let the artist keep his hard work inside his shack, producing more and more evolved sand animals. And, if you pass through a Dutch beach, maybe you can see him playing with one of his creations.
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