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Strandbeest and Theo

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My first experience with Theo Jansen’s Strandbeest, aside from youtube videos and his TED talk, was a model kit. This is a 3d printed kit of Animaris Ordis Parvus that we bought from his website. It’s very sight gives joy. Yesterday, I noticed that the elastic holding the backbone had disintegrated, my poor strandbeest with a broken back and in captivity and it made me a touch sad.

In Theo’s words:

“Since 1990, I have been engaged in creating new forms of life. These forms are not made of protein like the existing life-forms. Theirs is another basic stuff: yellow plastic tubing. Skeletons made from these tubes are able to walk and get their energy from the wind, so they don’t have to eat. Their habitat is the beach where I was born. They evolved gradually, over several generations. As they developed, they became more adept at weathering storms and coping with the sea. My ultimate wish is to release herds of these beach animals on the shore to make their own way through life. By redoing the Creation, so to speak, I hope to become wiser in my dealings with nature that is already there. It presents me with the same problems the Real Creator must have come up against. Strandbeest is a testimonial to my experiences as God. I can assure you that it’s not easy being God, there are plenty of disappointments along the way. But, on the few occasions that things work out, being God is the most wonderful thing in the world.”

Such a pronouncement would normally sound a little crazy but in this case, it is the best kind of crazy there is.

Theo makes these from hollow plastic tubes and ties, it allows him to iterate cheaply. He is an engineer’s engineer. But as a spectator, to me all that matters is that these creatures move and breathe and then they die. When they move, they move like insects -some nimble and some lugubrious. When they breathe, the wind blows through these hollow pipes and makes an eerie sound, it is never the same sound twice. And when they die, they look like old disintegrated skeletons. In its movement, it is joyful, in its breathing, it is doleful, and in its death, it is sad.

Recently, San Francisco Exploratorium held a Strandbeest exhibition.

I was ecstatic to go. The youtube video captures the best of the exhibition and yet, it was an antithesis for me. The strandbeests on the cavernous exhibition floor were stranded. And in their sadness, they were deathly quiet.

Written by Sachin

October 5, 2016 at 1:40 am