Theo Jansen's Beach Beasts Enter the White Space
Returning to the gallery for the first time since 1994, The Hague-born artist presented recent developments from ongoing explorations of his Strandbeesten concept, which has since traveled around the globe, from Chile to Japan, across the USA to Russia. Originating as an effort to create new forms of life built from plastic yellow tubes, Jansen's skeletal "beasts" continue to evolve. Emotionally attached to PVC pipes, plastic bottles and cable ties, the artist doesn't exclude the possibility of working with another material. "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, and they will live their own lives," he says about his plans for the future.
Animaris included a wall covered with design drawings from his personal journal, sketches that precede the finished works. For their first exhibition, these diary entries give a unique insight into the conceptual and technical aspects of his work. "Fossil beasts" reside alongside the diary pages, representing leftover remnants from past projects Jansen declared "extinct species." Functioning as a vital part of the beast, these unique pieces continue to function in exhibitions, telling the story of each individual Strandbeest.
Finally, arguably the most exciting part of the exhibition was the actual kinetic sculptures dominating the space. Namely, Animaris Ordis (ordinary beast), from Cerebrum, sits alongside the Animaris Uminami and Animaris Chalibs, both from the Bruchum, which he has been creating since 2016. Placed on mats that grip to their artificial feet, these perplexing objects could be pulled throughout the venue, presenting the striking way each elaborate creation comes to life. Mimicking the core structures of simple organic lifeform, these awe-inspiring creations are, aesthetically, somewhere between biomorphic and inorganic forms, animated by an outside force, ideally the wind. Their idiosyncratic nature of complex movements, coupled with an artificial appearance, makes them the most basic examples of artificial life and intelligence, continually developed by Jansen.
Photos and text by Sasha Bogojev