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Label: theo jansen

Friday 05th February 2016Artist Spotlight: Theo Jansen

 
In today's edition of Artist Spotlight, we're going to take a look at an artist whose work could also be featured in a version of our Public Art series, but unlike most public works of art, they don't exist in a fixed place. Dutch-born artist Theo Jansen has been active in the artist community almost since birth in 1948, but it wasn't until 1990 that he first began work on the pieces that he is now best known for. (So for all of you still waiting for your big artistic break, don't lose heart!)

Enter the Animari. These works are massive kinetic sculptures that move entirely thanks to their unique construction and powered by the wind alone. We've included a video here because they need to be seen to be believed, and a picture really doesn't do them justice.


Jansen explains how the sculptures move in a detail on his website: "Self-propelling beach animals like Animaris Percipiere have a stomach. This consists of recycled plastic bottles containing air that can be pumped up to a high pressure by the wind. This is done using a variety of bicycle pump, needless to say of plastic tubing. Several of these little pumps are driven by wings up at the front of the animal that flap in the breeze. It takes a few hours, but then the bottles are full. They contain a supply of potential wind. Take off the cap and the wind will emerge from the bottle at high speed. The trick is to get that untamed wind under control and use it to move the animal. For this, muscles are required. Beach animals have pushing muscles which get longer when told to do so. These consist of a tube containing another that is able to move in and out. There is a rubber ring on the end of the inner tube so that this acts as a piston. When the air runs from the bottles through a small pipe in the tube it pushes the piston outwards and the muscle lengthens. The beach animal's muscle can best be likened to a bone that gets longer. Muscles can open taps to activate other muscles that open other taps, and so on. This creates control centres that can be compared to brains."

Eerie, beautiful and undeniably fascinating, these sculptures beg us questions about the nature of artificial life, and by extension, of our own supposedly "natural" life.

"I make skeletons that are able to walk on the wind, so they don't have to eat. Over time, these skeletons have become increasingly better at surviving the elements such as storm and water and eventually I want to put these animals out in herds on the beaches, so they will live their own lives."
 

Posted on February 05th 2016 on 04:33am
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