The Expanded Field
Fundación Mar Adentro + Verónica Aguirre L. For Lofscapes
(1) Presentation of Theo Jansen’s exhibition by Fundación Mar Adentro for LOFscapes

Thanks to the project organized by Fundación Mar Adentro in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage, the memorable kinetic sculptures by artist Theo Jansen were in Chile at the Cerrillos National Center for Contemporary Art until July 1, 2018. The revolutionary mechanical forms invite an exploration of the possibilities of creation, the evolution of knowledge, and the relationship with the environment.

Whoever sees them will not forget them: built from plastic tubes used in electrical installations, the sculptures of Dutch artist Theo Jansen (1948) walk along the beach with their multiple feet, driven by the wind or with a small push from their creator.  He calls them Strandbeests (beach animals), and they are a product of his experimental work over the past 27 years, between the mathematical and energetic possibilities joined with the forms and materials all in relation to the environment. In this way, Jansen has created his own evolutionary system: solving problems by chance and error.  He builds his animaris – union of the words “animal” and “sea” – with the idea of ceasing to command them, and he now works so that the last generations will survive him.

It all began when he started thinking about the possible consequences of climate change back in 1989, after reading a story about how the sea could cover the beaches of the Netherlands.  He imagined large animal machines that could strengthen the dykes to protect the coastline along with the rest of the land. He began to make them into a reality, even without such a difficult mission.  He based these on algorithms – an ordered set of systematic operations that allows a calculation to be made and a solution to be found – and fundamental forms, with numbers that, for example, give the lengths and the triangle to serve as a base for the mechanism of a leg.  Jansen studied Physics before becoming an artist. He challenges the boundaries between disciplines and knowledge: engineering and sculpture, aerodynamics and evolution. His work has been presented in museums, art and science spaces around the world including in Rotterdam, London, Madrid, Seoul, Moscow, Paris, San Francisco, Okinawa, and Mexico City. 

Evolution and natural selection are other sources of inspiration. The book by Richard Dawkins The Blind Watchmaker prompted him to think about how a new being could adapt to the environment and thus he created evolutionary sculptures: they follow basic principles, but they change to adapt to the different challenges of their natural environment. He has classified his work in evolutionary periods that begin with the imaginary, continue with the use of different materials (no more complex than adhesive tape, rubber bands, wood or solder) and from there evolve according to new possibilities of relating with the environment or to perfecting their mechanisms to optimize their survival. Today he continues to build his calculations and pieces in a small workshop near the beach in The Hague. He began his twelfth period, approaching his dream that the new animaris would achieve independence from their creator. 

The focus of curating Theo Jansen’s complete project in Chile is on the educational and learning possibilities contained in his work. Each one of Jansen’s pieces is an activating device for processes that invite us to reflect from his art on the human relationship with the environment. For this reason, the program includes observations of nature, the creation of new forms, and the possibilities of technology.  The workshops will be held in collaboration with FabLab University of Chile, FabLab UC, Ecoscience Foundation and Cerrillos National Center of Contemporary Art. In Santiago, they will take place in Cerrillos Center and in the GAM, and in regions in the CECREA centers of the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage.  

The exhibition Wind Algorithms at the Cerrillos National Center of Contemporary Art is opened from April 14 until July 1, 2018. Free admission

From May to December, an educational program for children and young people in Santiago and the regions has been developed in collaboration with the centers CECREA, FabLab University of Chile, FabLab UC, Ecoscience Foundation and Center Nacional de Arte Contemporáneo Cerrillos. The project is organized by the Fundación Mar Adentro in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage.

Theo Jansen (Scheveningen, the Netherlands, 1948) lives and works in The Hague. 

Outstanding exhibitions: Strandbeesten Theo Jansen, Kunsthal, Róterdam, 2003; Theo Jansen, Institute of Contemporary Art and Trafalgar Square, London, 2005; The Believers, Mass MoCA, North Adams, MA, EE.UU., 2007; Machines and Souls: Digital art and new medium, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, 2007; Theo Jansen-Animaris Modular, Gwancheon National Science Museum, Seoul, 2010; Kinetic Sculptures by Theo Jansen, Polytechnic Museum, Moscow, 2014; Le bord des mondes, Palais de Tokyo, París, 2015; Strandbeest, The Dream Machines of Theo Jansen, Exploratorium: The Museum of Science, Art and Human Perception, San Francisco, USA, 2016; Theo Jansen, Okinawa Prefectural Museum & Art Museum, Okinawa, 2017. 

(2) Animaris Siamesis © Theo Jansen – Media Force
(3) Animaris Umerus. Photograph by Loek van der Klis © Theo Jansen – Media Force
(4) Photograph of Theo Jansen by Loek van der Klis © Theo Jansen – Media Force