Strandbeest is a continuing collection of pieces by Theo Jansen in which he creates (or attempts to create) a new form of life, not comprised of any sort of biological matter, but of yellow plastic tubes. Some of these “creatures” are small, others are quite sizable. They are comprised entirely of pipes and pulleys. After he has finished building one, he sets it loose on the beach near his home (or another area) and just lets them wander freely. Being non-biological, these creatures do not require food or drink, and have no natural predators (it would be interesting if another robotic artist built a creature to prey on these). The only current danger to these creatures is the elements, something Theo has been working on improving their design to better withstand.
Theo Jansen is completely intrigued with the concept of evolution. His work with the Strandbeests is very much inspired by his desire to create a self-sustaining organism. He describes his own work in the following way:
"The Strandbeest is a self-replicating meme, a brain virus. It infects the student's brain. In fact, the Strandbeest abuse students for their reproduction. For two years, this reproduction fell into a flow acceleration. Now, 3D printers produce walking mini Strandbeests."(Jansen, Theo,(December 2014) http://mocoloco.com/3d-printed-strandbeest-by-theo-jansen)
He treats his creations as real (if somewhat bizarre) animals, even going so far as to talk about how long he expects them to be able to continue existing after he is dead and gone.
"To see inanimate stuff come to life that way was wild, shiver-inducing—like seeing a haystack do the Macarena." (Frazier, Ian (September 2011) http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/09/05/the-march-of-the-strandbeests.)
Theo's work generates an interesting question. What if the future of evolution no longer lies in biological organisms, but creatures made of materials we generally consider non-living? As already pointed out, these creatures do not require sustenance, and unless one is constructed, they have no predators. Could our planet be entirely populated by synthetic tube creatures some day?
UFO (1980) is an early experiment by Theo Jansen using the piping he later used to create the Strandbeests. He constructed this four meter wider saucer (which police later reported as 30 meters wide) out of PVP piping. He flew it over the city of Delft in the Netherlands (intentionally not warning anyone that he intended to do so), causing mass panic and hysteria because people thought it was genuine. Like Theo's later work, the UFO was self-sustaining (at least to a point, apparently it floated into clouds and Theo never found it, but he presumes it eventually came down in Belgium), just as Theo is working on making the Strandbeests and then setting them loose on the beach and not keeping track of where they wander off to. Theo views himself as a creator not an artist, and after he has created something, he sets it loose to develop on its own.
Mondo Spider (2005), was a collaborative piece by artists Leigh Cristie, Jonathan Tippet, Charlie Brison, Alex Mossman, Dillard Brinson, Sam Meyer and Ryan Johnston. Like Strandbeest, it is a creature comprised of non-living materials built to resemble a living animal. Unlike Strandbeest, with their relatively peaceful appearance, this machine gives off a feeling of power and menace. The Mondo Spider is powered by electricity and or solar power, while Strandbeest uses its system of tubes to propel itself.
Places Strandbeest has been Displayed:
Exploratorium San Francisco
Date: May 27 - September 5, 2016
Chicago Cultural Center
Date: February 6 - May 01, 2016
Date: Februari 26, 2016 - April 2, 2016
Heden Den Haag, Denneweg 14A, The Hague
Date: April 12, 2016 - April 27, 2016
Atrium Stadhuis, The Hague
Date: April 17 - October 31 2016
Date: October 22, 2015 - January 17, 2016
ESPACIO FUNDACIÓN TELEFÓNICA,
Premiere - A Boy's Dream
Date: Sunday, November 22, 2015 at 19:30
1017 XN Amsterdam,
TOKYO TAMAGAWA ENNICHI
April 24 - May 6 2015
Location: Futako Tamagawa "GARELIA." Tokyo
Exhibition PEABODY ESSEX MUSEUM SALEM MA
September 19, 2015 - January 3, 2016
Dodge Gallery 2, East India Square, 161 Essex Street
Exhibition PALAIS DE TOKYO
February 18 - May 17 2015
LE BORD DES MONDES
[At the Edge of the Worlds]
Curated by Rebecca Lamarche Vadel