Theo Jansen transforms plastic bottles and conduit into skeletal frames – complete with movable joints, wings, and bellies – that are able to walk powered only by wind.
This modern-day Frankenstein has toiled for decades to create life from the inanimate; he sources his materials from building supply stores and recycling depots, not graveyards.
Jansen’s critters have no productive function, they simply are. A philosophical question arises from his melding of art and technology: why is aimless existence oddly unsettling?
Speaking in a BMW television commercial, Jansen (he was formally trained as a physicist) said, “The walls between art and engineering exist only in our minds.”
YouTube features video of Jansen making strandbeests, and also clips of the fully-formed figures in action on a beach near his home in Delft. (Most cameo the inventor and his sidekick white pup.)
Could these animals be domesticated? Not as pets (too enormous for human companionship – plus they could never be house-trained) – but possibly as working animals? Re-jigger them to sweep up litter from Abu Dhabi’s and Doha’s Corniche; or pop on some solar collectors so they can act as charging stations for all the tech in our Red Sea/Dead Sea beach bags.
Maybe allow these self-propelling beach critters to become part of the natural order, and quietly enjoy their presence. Their creepiness subsides. The graceful motion and quietude mesmerizes. Ever see a plastic bag dance quietly in a gust of wind? It’s magic when the weird becomes wonderful.