Jansen Theo with his Strandbeest exhibition. Photo taken in Hannover 2007.
The minute I saw the Strandbeest I fell in love with it. Theo Jansen’s prehistoric PVC skeleton dances in the breeze.
The self-propelling creature eats air and stores it in 2-liter bottles in its stomach, runs on its PVC legs, uses its brain to calculate for more air power, and flaps its wings to navigate. The beest runs on bicycle pumps that propel the creature’s legs up-and-down. Jansen uses 2-liter plastic soda bottles to store wind energy for the power. I don’t pretend to understand exactly how this works, but it’s fun to watch.
This is not an experiment in renewable energy. Jansen’s art project doesn’t make that claim. The Strandbeest, says the physicist/engineer/artist/architect, is a new species. Jansen’s artificial life isn’t a new type of Frankenstein. It’s more like love at first sight. It looks playful as it sails across the beach twisting its wings with the breeze. It’s a delight to watch. Play the video, and see if you don’t agree. The beest will be on tour in several cities in the United States in 2015 and 2016.
If you’re interested in reading more about Theo Jansen and his work, check out this New York Times article or better yet, look at his book, Strandbeest: The Dream Machines of Theo Jansen. For those inspired to try building your own beest model, Jansen offers a $50 kit, the Animaris Rhinoceros Parvus.