Plastic-Made Beasts Roam Around Singapore's ArtScience Museum

Wind Walkers: Theo Jansen's Strandbeests runs until September 30.

( When Dutch artist Theo Jansen started putting together large beast-like mechanisms from plastic pipes and bottles in 1990, little did he know that it would give birth to a whole series of self-propelled, wind-powered sculptures that resemble walking animals. He dedicated 28 years of his life to creating these strandbeesten (Dutch for "beach beasts," singular strandbeest), developing each "generation" and "breed" through his skills in art, engineering, and math. To celebrate this amazing feat, 13 of his large-scale creations are now on display at the Wind Walkers exhibit at the ArtScience Museum in Singapore until September 30.

The Wind Walkers exhibit explores how Jansen's beach-walking creatures have dramatically transformed over the years.
PHOTO BY Christa I. De La Cruz
The "Animaris Sabulosa" was the first animal capable of walking sideways against the direction of the wind.
PHOTO BY Christa I. De La Cruz

The first strandbeest assembled from "yellow PVC tubes, satay skewers, and tapes" was Jansen's response to the Netherlands' rising sea levels, and the possibility of the "[reduction] of [their] national territory to what it was in medieval times." They were also made with recycled plastic bottles that can store air and sails that allow them to harvest more wind energy for walking. These "animals on the beach," according to him, are in charge of loosening sand in large quantities and throwing it into air to form dunes, create natural barriers, and protect the coastline.

The "Animaris Proboscis" was built during the "Period of Gentle Breeze" (2013-2015).
PHOTO BY Christa I. De La Cruz
The "Animaris Rigide Properans" has a propeller attached to the back, letting it walk sideways at considerable speed.
PHOTO BY Christa I. De La Cruz
Because of its numerous large sails, the "Animaris Turgentia Vela" changes its walking speed depending on the strength of the wind.
PHOTO BY Christa I. De La Cruz

From then on, he started creating plastic-made animals that he was able to identify in terms of taxonomy classifications. He came up with a total of 11 families, starting with his first beach animal, the "Animaris Vulgaris," under the Gluton classification. The timeline, so far, ends with the Bruchum family, which includes the first ever caterpillar-like strandbeest that could move, the "Animaris Bruchus Primas;" and the first caterpillar powered by the wind, "Animaris Mulus." It’s interesting to note that the Netherlands' yellow plastic pipes slowly fade to a white color when exposed to the sun, making it a useful method for determining the age of the strandbeesten.

Concept sketches by Theo Jansen
PHOTO BY Christa I. De La Cruz
The yellow-to-white color scheme of PVC tubes is unique to the Netherlands.
PHOTO BY Christa I. De La Cruz
Jansen's studio in Delft is near the western seaboard of the Netherlands.
PHOTO BY Christa I. De La Cruz

The exhibit also showcases Jansen’s process of creating his liege of strandbeest, starting from his concept sketches and assembly materials to a computer he used in the '90s to crunch the numbers for his walking mechanism. 

It seems that Jansen is not stopping his development of beach beasts anytime soon. His summers are often spent at his studio in Delft, near the ocean, where he sometimes takes the animals for a walk on the soft sand. 

Wind Walkers: Theo Jansen's Strandbeests runs until September 30 at ArtScience Museum, ArtScience Museum, Marina Bay Sands, 10 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore. For more information, visit the ArtScience Museum or Strandbeest website.


How to Get There

Singapore Airlines flies daily from Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 in Manila to Changi Airport in Singapore. Marina Bay Sands can be accessed through the Bayfront MRT Station.

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