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Impressionism and mesmerizing beasts

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After finding out about strange machines invented by
men, let’s turn to the strange animals invented by men as well.

We are talking talk about Theo Jansen, Dutch artist who dedicated a
great deal of his life to the creation of kinetic sculptures named Strandbeest (Dutch: strand=beach;
beest=beast).

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And you are probably wondering, what have the
Impressionists to do with these mechanic creatures? Well, they are distant
relatives. Kinetic art takes its origins
from the movement of Impressionists and their experiments with depicting
motion. Nowadays, after years and years of interest in the topic of movement
and dynamics on the canvas as well as in sculptures, kinetic art has grown into
a separate art form, that primarily stands for any object that can actually move
or show some kind of motion.

But let’s come back to Theo Jansen’s story. His main
interest is not only movement. He actually started as a landscape painter, but
quickly became interested in other things. Like UFOs, for instance. In 1979, Jansen built a flying object filled with helium and launched it in the sky. It had
caused quite a sensation, while the size of the “UFO” was hard to guess because
of the clever coloring and construction. During this project, he used cheap
yellow plastic pipes that were very common in Holland. Since then, it became
his favorite material.

The idea of Strandbeests
came to Theo Jansen as a solution to the problem of sea levels rising in Holland. It had been a great threat for
the artist’s homeland, so in 1990, Jansen has decided to invent wind-powered mechanisms
that would move the sand around and keep the balance between dry land and the
water, in much the same way beavers do on the fen-lands of the Netherlands. This
kinetic animals have occupied him ever since. Artist himself tells that he has
invented new breed of species that can walk, produce sounds, surmount obstacles
and adjust to the changing environment. Made out of already mentioned plastic tubes
and recycled bottles, Strandbeests wonder
around the seaside accompanied by a symphony of windy melodies.

Connecting engineering with art, Theo Jansen dreams of
creating a new kind of nature and letting his wonderful beasts into the wild. While
his ideas and mechanisms sound dreamy, Jansen’s inventions go deeper into such philosophical
subjects as the origins of life and creation of artificial life.  These questions are highly disputable in the
world of science, as well as in the art world. Artist himself has expressed
the intention of adjusting some kind of AI system to his creatures, so they
could have a completely autonomous life. And we believe that due to such
beautiful collaboration between art and science, we will be able to observe
more marvelous inventions in the nearest future.

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