Theo Jansen: Strandbeest at the Art Park


One of the highlights for me this year was Theo Jansen’s exhibit at the Art Park held in the summer. Jansen is a Dutch artist who created works of art that move and seemingly breathe–just like living creatures do.

To me, this looks like an elephant’s head with a worm’s body.

I found his work really fascinating–and I wasn’t the only one. The exhibit, for the short weeks it was held at Geijutsu no Mori, had more than a million visitors.

Jansen is a genius. These sculptures that could move were so captivating. Though they were not necessarily exact replicas of creatures we know of, some of them looked like animals. Jansen himself said that these were not meant to resemble live creatures we see in nature. The ideas came to him as they were being built. However, to me, the one below looks like a rhinoceros. Since it is art, you can make it to be anything you want, right?


The Strandbeests were generally big and could be manipulated to move using air compressors. Essentially, these creatures were made of plastic tubing that interconnected with each other to form “veins” and “bones.”


Or wheels 🙂


In some, bigger plastic bottles were incorporated into their structures and contained air to serve as the “lungs” that would power movement. Some of the Strandbeests had a covering over them (I think made of plastic, too) that looked like “skin.”  As air is pumped through, either parts of the creatures would move, or the whole thing moved back and forth.

For the most part, visitors were not allowed to touch the exhibits. Only the museum staff were allowed to touch them. But I think they did a good job creating the time slots to show how each of the creatures were able to move. Basically, from the time the museum opened to the time it closed, there was a demonstration every hour. Most of it were the same four or five Standbeests moving, though. If you had the time to wait, you could have watched all of them.

However, one of the sculptures was hands on. You could actually push it forward and pull it backward. It was surprisingly light, considering how big the thing was. I really enjoyed that part.

We got to see three demonstrations of the creatures, and they were all interesting. I wish they had done some of the demonstrations outside, though, on the day we went. They did for the other days, when the weather was nice. When we went, none of them were scheduled to be done outside.

Jansen originally designed these creatures to move and be propelled by nature. If you check out his website, you can see videos of these massive structures moving on the windy beaches of Holland.


I loved the exhibit and wished I could have stayed longer, but I went with my husband who has no interest in all of this.

The dragonfly, as I like to call this. It was hanging outside.

My mind was blown. What a creative mind to think up of such creatures. They were big and wonderful to look at from afar. But I also loved looking at the detailed construction of these “animals.” To me, it was the prime example of engineering meeting art.


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