Tuesday, February 21, 2017

New Life on the Beach

Although new products within a single domain provide excitement and enthusiasm, products that emerge from the crossover of two or more domains create an even more awe-inspiring experience for the product’s audience. This is the case for the current artist, Theo Jansen. He is a Dutch native that has become known throughout the world for his moving sculptures. Jansen has innovatively combined the fields of art and engineering in order to produce truly magnificent beasts that roam the beaches of the Netherlands.
Jansen’s longest and most renowned work is Strandbeest. The work has been a series of creatures created from PVC, wood, and other simple materials that are able to move along the beach through wind power. After multiple installations, Jansen was able to determine environmental factors that endangered or hindered the “life” of his creatures. Thus, he eventually created animals that could sense where they were on the beach with a brain that could detect the location of the water. Additionally, the brain is able to determine when a storm is approaching and triggers the animal to drive a spike in the ground so that it does not get blown away during the storm. With all of these adaptations and more to come, Jansen eventually wants to have herds of his creatures roaming the beaches.
As seen through the series of adaptations, Jansen has a continuous and progressive process to creating his moving sculptures. After one work or sketch, he makes improvements to the point where there is seemingly no end. His creativity allows him to find more ways to improve the previous work. This is seemingly identical to the process Picasso went through for his paintings, specifically Guernica. In the process of making Guernica, Picasso made hundreds of sketches and samples in order to make sure that each piece was perfect in respects to the whole.


             Finally, neither Jansen nor Picasso would be able to achieve their levels of creativity without being experts in their fields. Without being a master painter, Picasso would not know the foundations of painting and would not have been able to formulate the style of cubism. Likewise, the kinesthetic sculptures of Jansen would have never come into being without his knowledge of engineering. Both creators use their knowledge of their domain and their progressive processes in order to create truly sensational works of art.

In order to see Jansen's creatures in action as well as hear more about them, visit the following link and watch the brief TED Talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/theo_jansen_creates_new_creatures

Gardner, H. (1993). Creating minds: An anatomy of creativity sen through the lives of Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham, and Gandhi. New York: Basic Books.

Weisberg, R. W. (1993). Chapter 4: Creative problem solving. Creativity: Beyond the myth of genius. New York: Freeman.



  1. Jansen's works are innovative masterpieces that are expanding new aspects of both engineering and sculpting. They look highly amusing as well as perplexing. He takes the beast-like symbolism to the next level by adding in movement. It must take a crazy level of visualization to be able to draw, and implement these in such a large scale. This post highlights the importance of imagination with discovery. Imagination helps push borders and enter new grounds, in both science and art as seen with Jansen's moving structures. I would really love to see one of these in real life. I wonder if Loyola could be convinced to buy a couple for Lake Michigan.

  2. I am very interested in the connection you are making between Picasso and Theo Jansen. A question immediately emerges in my mind: what problems are Picasso and Jansen solving? Neither artist comes up with utilitarian products. However, I see both as answering to the modern human spirit in incredibly unique ways. Both cubism and kinetic sculpture address the modern condition, whether that be of violence, science, or alienation. The dichotomy between artistic creativity and utilitarian creativity is an interesting one to make considering that Theo Jansen is obviously very scientifically smart and could probably develop utilitarian solutions.

  3. These works of art are definitely great examples of creative thinking and, like you said, the crossing of domains (ie. physics/engineering and art) to give something new and beautiful. Mastery in both fields is a crucial part of the creative process in both Jansen and Picasso, and Jansen especially shows innovation with allowing his creations to adapt to outside forces. This is a really good example that creativity is not just limited to painting and music, but is also crucial for the sciences as well.


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