How many artificial animals can you encounter on a seaside walk? More than one if you frequent the Dutch coastline where Theo Jansen’s moving artworks amble along with the help of their rudimentary senses. The complex wind-powered skeletal constructs that Jansen calls “Strandbeests,” or beach beasts, are designed to stay on the beach and live off the sea breeze.
Created entirely from ordinary plastic tubes without any electronics, Jansen has through numerous evolutionary experiments equipped them with ingenious sensing mechanisms that can detect water, avoid obstacles and hammer the animal into the sand before a storm. Giving them the ability to migrate is the next principle he’s attempting to master with his newest creature, the Plaudens Vela (fluttering sail beast), which will be a big step forward towards his final goal of creating a completely independent artificial animal.
Undertaking the task of manually evolving a new form of life isn’t a challenge anyone would take up lightly, but Jansen was hooked when he tried to replicate the creatures that evolved within a program he designed years ago. Settling on cheap plastic tubes as his raw material, he began constructing his beasts through computer generated designs initially, and entirely freeform later on.
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