Wind Walkers: Theo Jansen’s Strandbeests

From 23 June till 30 September 2018

Come walk with the beasts, as ArtScience Museum unveils the first Southeast Asian exhibition of Theo Jansen’s world famous moving sculptures.

Dutch sculptor, Theo Jansen, has spent the last 28 years designing and building a series of wind-powered creatures called Strandbeests or ‘beach animals’. Jansen’s extraordinary creations, which he describes as “a new form of life”, are a true embodiment of art, science, engineering and performance.

In the spirit of Leonardo da Vinci, Jansen trained as a physicist, then became a painter, before focusing his attention on sculpture. He has applied his background in both art and science to create over 30 self-propelled Strandbeests that utilize wind power to walk in a startlingly lifelike fashion. Originally conceived as a solution to address the threat of flooding caused by rising sea levels, Jansen envisioned the Strandbeests as wind-powered creatures roaming the beaches, pushing and piling sand on the shore to form natural barriers. 

Presented in four sections, the exhibition brings together 13 large-scale Strandbeests, from the most recent moving Strandbeests to ‘fossils’ of past beasts, accompanied by a comprehensive collection of films, artist sketches and prototypes. It starts by charting Jansen’s imaginative vision and the origin of Strandbeests, to unraveling the science behind the Strandbeests’ unique locomotion as well as the processes that have driven their evolution. It further explores how Jansen’s beach-walking creatures have dramatically advanced in form and function over the years, becoming more than the practical machines he originally intended, and instead evolving into a new species of man-made animals.

The exhibition concludes with a commissioned installation, Backyard Lab, by Singapore-based artist Isabelle Desjeux. Similar to Jansen, Desjeux’s work is an exploration into the process of creation using everyday objects through trial and error and experimentation.

Reanimations of several Strandbeests are conducted daily Please refer to the schedule below for more information.

View Reanimation Schedule

Meet the Strandbeests
Constructed from everyday materials such as plastic piping and bottles, Jansen’s wondrous, large-scale kinetic sculptures are propelled by the wind. Over the past 28 years, they have evolved into complex creatures that are able to respond to environmental conditions. There are different generations of Strandbeests classified into time periods similar to geologic eras, with each Strandbeest having a Latin name reflective of its characteristics. 

Explore the Galleries
Artist Commission – Backyard Lab
Theo Jansen

Backyard Lab is a new installation by Singapore-based artist, Isabelle Desjeux, commissioned by ArtScience Museum for the exhibition. This installation tells the story of one artist who was inspired by Theo Jansen’s ideology. It invites the visitors to explore the process of creation from sketching to prototyping, through trial, error and experimentation.

The heart of this installation is the central mobile lab, where ideas originate and machines are made. It is a crucial space where the process of creation unravels, from the various materials and tools to the sketches and prototypes.

Another component of this quasi-laboratory is a showcase of the completed projects; The Machine That Never FailsThe Self- Tickling Machine and The Bird-Activated Scarecrow. The idea and manifestation of each project are detailed in the form of an explanatory video, a sketch and the finished product. 

Strandbeests in Singapore
One of the Strandbeests, named Ordis was brought out to various parts of Singapore. It was seen along the streets of Marina Bay and Orchard Road on 14 and 15 June.
About the Artists
Theo Jansen

Theo Jansen

Theo Jansen (born 1948, the Netherlands) studied physics at Delft University of Technology, but left to pursue a career in art. He started out as a landscape painter, but shot to prominence in 1980 when he flew a "UFO" made of plastic sheeting on a light frame across the skies of Holland.  His engineering background and keen interest in science have continually shaped his art. Jansen’s most renowned works are his Strandbeests, which he continues to build on the Dutch seaside.

Jansen has exhibited his work internationally, including at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, USA; the Peabody Essex Museum in Massachusetts, USA; the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo, Japan; Cité des Sciences and Palais de Tokyo in Paris, France; the Reina Sophia in Madrid, Spain; the Institute for Contemporary Art in London, UK and the Stedelijk Museum in the Netherlands. He has been profiled by The New Yorker, The New York Times, the BBC and Wired amongst others and his TED talk has attracted over four million online views.  His Strandbeests even starred in an episode of The Simpsons.

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Isabelle Dejeux

Isabelle Desjeux

Isabelle Desjeux is an artist based in Singapore. She has a background in molecular biology (PhD, Edinburgh University UK, 1995) and a Masters in Arts (Fine Arts) from Lasalle College of the Arts, Singapore (2010).

Isabelle’s research is based on the “refuse”, the “leftovers”, the “failures” and their functions in the process of scientific research, and a strong belief in the power of transformation over creation. Drawing from the similarities in practice across both worlds, Isabelle’s art feels like science. Her art takes the form of videos, installations and lectures using elaborate techniques of ‘Pataphysics’ - a branch of philosophy or “science of imaginary solutions”.

Since leaving the lab bench in 2000, Isabelle has divided her time between honing her artistic skills and teaching drawing and creative crafts to young children. Teaching is an integral part of her practice, such that any experiment going on in her studio is always open for students to be a part of.

About our Sponsor
Audemars Piguet

Audemars Piguet and Art

Audemars Piguet has always sought to integrate creative vision with superb artistry and technical mastery. Pursuing its commitment to ingenuity, innovation, and a spirit of independence, Audemars Piguet formed a partnership with Art Basel in 2013, supporting the world’s premier contemporary art shows in Hong Kong, Basel and Miami Beach. Since then, Audemars Piguet has presented innovative concepts at all three Art Basel shows, inviting artists to creatively interpret Audemars Piguet’s heritage and origins. 

Audemars Piguet supports annual projects that give artists the freedom to create works that offer their own, highly personal interpretation of the company’s cultural and geographical origins. These projects are emblematic of the company’s most deeply held values and testify to the deep and fertile dialogue between two areas of creative endeavour that have much to say to each other. For Art Basel’s 2014 show in Miami Beach, Audemars Piguet co-presented Theo Jansen’s Strandbeest, animal-like kinetic sculptures which harnessed wind power to walk along the seashore in Miami Beach. For Audemars Piguet, these complex and compelling creatures evoke the essence of watchmaking in a language that could only have been developed by an artist.

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*All images and videos: © Media Force