artist of the day #42: Theo Jansen

Some artists take the idea of creating art that reflects life a little too seriously. Artist and physicist The Jansen is one of them. His structures, or as he calls them, Animaris, feed on the wind and can lead lives of their own without human interaction. These typically gargantuan figures built mostly from inexpensive yellow tubing, operate based on very complex principles of physics. Jansen has developed a new and unique approach to joint mechanics that he claims is a modern adaptation to the wheel. With the Animaris he has truly brought art and science together in something both beautiful and innovative. And it is truly both that made these creations possible. Without his background in art, he would not have been as inspired, nor would he have the ability to think far enough outside of the box. And without the science, he could have never powered his vision.

Jansen has created a series of these creatures, all with slightly different mechanics and aesthetics. And as he designs new ones, he improves their ability to adapt to their environment. He has gone beyond simply making them move, to making them stronger against the elements, to teaching them when to turn around, and how to store up energy for when there is no more wind. His goal is to eventually make herds of these creatures that he will simply let run wild and live their own lives.

Oddly, this is not the first time Jansen has caused people to think they were seeing a new life form. Back in 1979 he created a home made UFO which he flew over the town of Delft, causing a bit of hysteria and an almost riot. With formal education in both art and physics, Jansen often pulls inspiration from both. He also created a machine that would do his painting for him. It was a complex piece of machinery that would detect for light in a systematic way, which eventually created a photographic image devoid of perspective.

If this is the wave of robots with artificial intelligence, I think we have little to worry about. They will simply take long walks on the beach and create family portraits in their free time. If you like his creations, you can even buy a toy-sized version of his Animari for a fairly reasonable price off of his website: http://www.strandbeest.com/shop/index_usa.php

And please check out at least 10 seconds of this video to really appreciate these things: http://www.ted.com/talks/theo_jansen_creates_new_creatures.html

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