četvrtak, 11. listopada 2012.

Theo Jansen - Strandbeest: kinetičke skulpture

Robotske skulpture koje pokreće vjetar. Jansen ih zove novim oblikom života i tvrdi da s vremenom sve bolje uče preživljavati u različitim vremenskim uvjetima. Sad tim bićima namjerava dodati mozak.

Self-propelling beach animals like Animaris Percipiere have a stomach. This consists of recycled plastic bottles containing air that can be pumped up to a high pressure by the wind. This is done using a variety of bicycle pump, needless to say of plastic tubing. Several of these little pumps are driven by wings up at the front of the animal that flap in the breeze. It takes a few hours, but then the bottles are full. They contain a supply of potential wind. Take off the cap and the wind will emerge from the bottle at high speed. The trick is to get that untamed wind under control and use it to move the animal. For this, muscles are required. Beach animals have pushing muscles which get longer when told to do so. These consist of a tube containing another that is able to move in and out. There is a rubber ring on the end of the inner tube so that this acts as a piston. When the air runs from the bottles through a small pipe in the tube it pushes the piston outwards and the muscle lengthens. The beach animal's muscle can best be likened to a bone that gets longer. Muscles can open taps to activate other muscles that open other taps, and so on. This creates control centres that can be compared to brains.

LABATORY YPENBURG – The lab consists of a sandpit measuring 30x15 meter, a cabin, a large sea container and lots willow trees. There is the bone yard as well. Usually there are only one or two animals living at one time. As soon as the development of an animal is at its end, I declare it extinct and I push it onto the bone yard. The animals there can be seen as the fossils of extinct species. Exposure to sun and rain causes the tubes to fade, making these appear more bonelike with time. The sandpit is the pre-heaven for the beach animals. They are not yet ready to survive the real beach. I still have to train them. Usually I take them out once a year to the real beach to let them get a taste of their natural environment.
click here to view the web cam

painting machine

The painting machine was a light-sensitive spray-gun. When light fell on the light cell the spray-gun would stop spraying. It only sprayed when there was no light. The light cell was situated at the end of a tube, so it would only react to the light directly hitting straight into the length of the tube. If it encountered a dark point, the spray-would spray; if not, it would shut. The spray was hoisted onto a wooden construction which moved back and forth along the wall. It reacted to the dark and light points in the room and painted them on the wall. It creates a photographic image, in which all perspective is vanished. All the objects in the image are the same size as the real objects.

flying drill

A drill was hanging at the end of a long cord measuring 45 meters between two buildings located in The Hague. In its drill head a small propeller was mounted in place of the drill. As soon as the cord was plugged in at one of the buildings, the drill moved around, not in circles but making complex movements (Lissajous).

. If you’re like many people, you’ve probably come across Theo Jansen’s kinetic sculptures in videos online. Jansen, aged sixty-three, is a Dutch artist who lives in Delft, near the North Sea. For the past twenty-one years, he has devoted himself to constructing animals that can walk on the beach powered only by the wind. His name for his animals is Strandbeests, which means “beach animals” in Dutch. Some creatures have batwing-like sails, and most are made of accumulations of stiff plastic tubes. Robert Kloos, the director for Visual Arts, Architecture, and Design at the Consulate General of the Netherlands, has been working with other fans of Theo’s to find a venue and funding for a show in New York City in 2013. Mentions a BMW commercial featuring Theo’s creations which has already received more than four million hits on YouTube. The writer flew to Holland to visit Theo and observe his work. Theo grew up in Scheveningen, a small port city just north of Delft. He studied physics at the Delft University of Technology, yet left in 1974 without a degree. In 1990, he proposed in a column for De Volkskrant, a national newspaper, that animals could be built that would toss sand in the air so that it would land on and augment the seaside dunes which protected the country from flooding. He promised to devote a year to this project, and it has occupied him exclusively ever since. He divides his different generations of Strandbeests into time periods like geologic eras. Basic Strandbeest design uses multiple pairs of legs set on a central crankshaft, which produces a galloping-herd effect. Theo’s beach headquarters is a cabaret-restaurant called De Fuut (the Grebe). Its owner likes to have him and his Strandbeests on the sand beside his restaurant’s outdoor dining area. On a Saturday morning, Theo loaded several Strandbeests on a rented flatbed trailer and the roof of his Volvo and drove to beach ramp No. 10 with his friends Hans and Loek. At the beach, four Delft University of Technology students were waiting for him. Theo pounded metal stakes into the sand and tethered Strandbeests to them. Mentions the Rijksmuseum. Theo went ahead with beach trials the following afternoon. He was devoting all his energy to getting a Strandbeest he called Animaris Gubernare up and moving. This colossus had fan-blade-driven air pumps, ninety-six plastic 1.5-litre bottles to store the compressed air, and a stegosaurus-like nose. Mentions Lena Herzog. Theo often says that he does not know if he is a sculptor or an engineer or what. The writer’s theory about Theo is that he is secretly a landscape artist. The great Dutch painters painted windmills, he builds wild new kinds of windmills for acute observers to photograph.- Ian Frazier

Interview: THEO JANSEN

I first discovered Theo Jansen's work just over a year ago and immediately started correspondence with him. Today, we sat down for what is a key interview in the roster bringing together the worlds of science and art in the most natural and unexpected ways.
Theo Jansen studied physics at the University of Delft, Holland before becoming a painter. After his seven year career in painting, he started work on the UFO project which entailed the creation of an actual flying saucer that flew over Delft in 1980 causing pandemonium in the town and attracting considerable attention to his work.

For more than 10 years now, he has been working on the genesis of new nature in his Strandbeest creations which he envisions becoming completely autonomous, intelligent, wind-powered life forms. As an introduction to this work, here is his presentation on this fascinating project for TED:

What prompted you to quit your studies of Physics at the University of Delft and becomes a painter?
I was young of course. The hippy period was there. I was distracted from my study by all these new dreams of people and a lot of friends of mine were artists and so I decided to become one as well and started becoming a painter.

And have you continued painting?
No, it stopped as soon as I started the UFO project at the beginning of the eighties and then the UFO project had such a success also media wise and I had been famous for about three months in my country for that and so I chased it more or less on bigger projects. After that, I couldn't paint anymore, sit in my studio and just paint. It wasn't possible anymore.

Following on from your painting, you seem to have had a desire to “work outside the box” and pursue new forms of expression through the painting machine and light sculptures. How did these projects develop?
After the UFO project, I had to do something more technical things and my interest for physics which has never been away during painting, it was really a rebirth in the technical interest after the UFO so I wanted to make something technical.

The painting machine was something interesting because in those days there were no printers yet so it was quite unusual to paint with a painting machine like that especially as the perspective of the images that came out of the painting machine because it made real size photos in front of the wall so the distance didn't matter at all. If a chair was standing a meter or 100 meters it would be the same size. That was the special thing about the painting machine because you could also make the opposite perspective objects with it so I also made photographs of chairs and tables which were in opposite. Things which were closer were smaller and things which were bigger were further away from the wall so it's just the opposite of normal perspective.

What did you learn from them?
My mind was really going on thinking. It made me change my living just for a lot of dreaming about abstract 3D forms in my head and the possibilities of machines. It really did change my thinking and my attitude. I was asked to write a column for a university magazine that really was sort of, this is a Dutch expression, “a stick behind the door”. That means that someone is standing there beating you up when you don't do your homework.

And did this work have any influence on your Strandbeests?
It surely had as this column really forced me to think about anything in the world and because every time I tried to find new, strange perspectives on reality and in effect, the strandbeests they started off as a column in the newspaper and that is about 18 years ago now and in the first period after that nothing happened. I had written the column and then half a year later, I got the idea of going to the shop and buying some of these tubes. I started playing with it and I did that for an afternoon and in the period of the afternoon, I decided to spend one year on these tubes, on these conduits because I saw so many possibilities in there. It turned out to be more than I could ever think of all those years ago.

"...I discovered that I was making new forms of life and by doing that I hoped to get wiser about our existence and our own forms of life."
With the Strandbeests, you have stated that you are making “new nature”; what is your intention in developing “new nature” and what have you learned from your work on the Strandbeests?
The motivation changed. I started off building robots that could gather sands and build up dunes to save us from the raising of the sea level and during working I discovered that I was making new forms of life and by doing that I hoped to get wiser about our existence and our own forms of life.
I have all kinds of theories about symmetry and about multiplying, the sequences in evolution by doing evolution again and new, I think I discovered a lot about the mechanism behind it.
I wrote about this in my book The Great Pretender where I have written many theories about life.
Are your creations entirely built according to functional parameters or is there some poetry in their design?
Well, the strange thing is that I don't want to make something beautiful. When I work, I always work on function and it turns out when it's finished, it usually doesn't function that well but I surprise myself how beautiful it appears.
Their forms are very beautiful, very poetic.
There's nothing I can do to that. That's sort of this secret artist in me which I'm not aware of secretly making beautiful things.

You have mentioned that the next step in your work is giving your creations brains. Have you made progress in this phase and what does this entail?
Well, the progress is that the nerve cells don't eat that much any more.

Would you briefly explain the nerve cells to put things in context?
Well, the nerve cells are the element, the basic element of the brain. You could also say it's a sort of computer. In a computer, the nerve cell divides where there is an input or output and my nerve cells work in the way that the input is zero and the output is one so it's the opposite from the input and that means if there is air on the input, pressure on the input there is no pressure on the output.

"...the brain will in future contain a time mechanism which runs parallel with the tides of the sea so they will know in advance when the sea is coming..."

With this principle, you can make a network just like in electronics. And so you can make binary counters, time mechanisms. For instance, the brain will in future contain a time mechanism which runs parallel with the tides of the sea so they will know in advance when the sea is coming up so they can go to the dunes before that.

Also, they have sensors which feel the water of the sea. That works quite well these days. They have a sort of tube which is going very close to the ground sucking in air all the time. As soon as it comes into the water, it swallows the water of the sea and then it feels the resistance of it and then it immediately goes the other way out of the sea again because it's longer.

One minute into the rolling surf, they're lost because they're sucked in and cannot come out any more. Future Strandbeests will have step counters which will be reset by feeling the water and they run away from the sea and they count the steps away from the sea so they know where the sea is.

This is what you could call a very primitive imagination. We have our imagination,we have a sort of mirror world in our head which represents the real world around us. It is a copy of the world and our world is very complex but the beach animals world is very simple. On the right hand side is the sea, on the left is the dunes and there's no disposition toward those two elements and so these nerve cells, one nerve cell, works quite well which it does now then the possibilities are endless.

Would you tell us about the animaris speculata that remained attached to its mother acting as a kind of scout? How did this develop and would you tell us a little about how it worked?
Well, it didn't work really well. I've advanced

Is this something you discontinued?
Yes, I stopped the process because I found better ways to feel the soft sand. The animarus speculata worked with a wire in there and there was a lot of friction. It would work a lot better now because the lungs, the wind stomach, plastic bubbles would be a lot better to feed the speculata. It turns out that when the animals run into the soft sand, then the pressure goes up in the animal and you can do this quite easy with a big force that can be pulled out again. These days, they are quite able to walk on soft sand as well, the dry sand.

Theo Jansen's workshop in Ypenburg, Holland

As well as your beasts, there are the programs you’ve developed from the worms simulation to the algorithms you now use for the evolution of the Strandbeests. How have these evolved over time?

I used the computer mainly to develop the lengths of the tubes in the feet. In the middle of each animal there is a sort of backbone which makes a circular movement. The circular movement is transformed into a complex movement down to the toe, the feet. That translation is very much depending on the length of the tubes in between and there are 12 tubes which determines the movement of the toe. The combination of lengths is very important so I wrote a genetic algorithm in an Atari computer to develop the right proportion of the 12 tubes and those were 12 numbers, a sort of genetic code which survived best and these genetic codes are just 12 numbers and I call them also the 12 holy numbers. They determine how the animals walk like they walk.

How important is the environment to you and your work?
Well, I don't think the PVC pipe which I use is very good for the environment. Of course, I never leave them on the beach as part of the environment. The way I work with wind energy is...

Would you consider the environment a partner in creation?
Yes, especially the big dangers on the real beach is the storms. They must always walk with their nose into the wind. When the wind comes sideways they blow over. I work now on programs so they always know where the wind comes from and they put their nose into the wind. Seagulls do the same thing when they are standing on the beach otherwise they would blow away as well.

The place where I work now is quite inland, about 10km inland to have a sort of sandpit, 30m x 50m, here I'm working on them until they're mature enough to go to the real beach because they're not strong enough to survive a very long time in the beaches more than 5 minutes.

So you have a nursery or training area?
Yes. Because the elements on the real beach are a lot worse than they are here. I really must train them a lot better. I think in about 4 years, I'll go to the real beach with the animals and I will have a sort of mobile studio which runs after them and I can do my repairs and hopefully I won't have to do it every third minute like I have to do now.

What was the last thing to surprise you and what did you learn from the experience?
There was an exhibition by a guy called Gerritcan Vakal. He was a Dutch artist and he died in '84 and he made also machines that run on the difference in temperature between day and night. They run very slow. I think they do 3cm a year and he put one of these machines in a desert in Nepal somewhere, he put them in the beginning there and it will be on the other side in 38 million years so that's very funny I think.

Are they still working.
Well, I think the machines never worked but the thought is very good. He is one of the artists that really inspires me. Always when I have an exhibition, I try to include his work.

Generally speaking, art and science tend to make for strange bedfellows with resistence from both sides. Photographer Felice Frankel for example refuses to accept that her work is art and the art world in general is having a difficult time coming to terms to massive influx of new media. Why do you think this is and how do you think the divide between the two can be improved?
Well, I think it is just another matter of what is in people's minds. It's just the institutes that make the people. I mean somewhere where you earn your money, it's what you are. I mean I think engineers are more artists than they want to know and because they work at the university they think well I'm an engineer I'm not an artist. People tend to exaggerate what they think they are. Artists do the same. This world tends to split up just because of psychological reasons.

"If you didn't give anybody money any more, you'll see the real artist and you'll see the real scientist and they'll probably be one person."
And do you think there should be more art in science with more emphasis toward creativity in its tuition?
Well, it's something you cannot force, these boundaries, these institutions give money. You tend to do what gives you the money or recognition. I think if those elements were not there like you have for Eskimos who doesn't have any institution, he doesn't know he's an artist when he makes a little piece of art and he doesn't know he's a scientist when he makes a piece on his canoe to hide him so he can shoot the seals.

If that is the purpose to be blank again and have no prejudice feelings about what you do, I think money would change a lot. If you didn't give anybody money any more, you'll see the real artist and you'll see the real scientist and they'll probably be one person.

Is there any advice you would give parents to nurture children in learning the skills you use?
Yes, well I think when kids go to school they'll usually learn a lot more from each other than they learn from their teachers. So I think putting in a school doesn't matter, if the environment of the kids is okay, they will learn a lot. They might not when they go to economic school or something, they might not become an economist. I don't think the direction or the subject of the school matters so much, I think the mentality is more important than what you study.

And was there anything in your own childhood that led to your current work? (outside playing with pipes)
No, I had a very average family. I don't know how this all came. I think the hippy times did a lot (laughs).

What kind of impact do you hope your work will have both in practical and artistic terms?
What I see now, a lot of people seem to recognize what I do in their own imagination and follow me in my fairytale and become sort of partners or participants. Obviously they don't work with me but stand behind me, support me and really talk with me as if they are part of my project. That of course is something for an artist is very nice when people seem to understand your work.

In the future I hope that these animals will develop in the end that they can live on their own and I don't have to cure them any more and at the end of my life that they will live for a long time after I'm done.- siouxwire-annex.blogspot.com/

Theo Jansen (Galerie Akinci)


Wild Things Are on the Beach

by Lakshmi Sandhana 
Theo Jansen wants to make "life" and he figures the best way to do it is to start from scratch.
A self-styled god, Jansen is evolving an entirely new line of animals: immense multi-legged walking critters designed to roam the Dutch coastline, feeding on gusts of wind. Over the years, successive generations of his creatures have evolved into increasingly complex animals that walk by flapping wings in response to the wind, discerning obstacles in their path through feelers and even hammering themselves into the sand on sensing an approaching storm.
A scientist-turned-artist, Jansen's bizarre beach animals have their roots in a computer program that he designed 17 years ago in which virtual four-legged creatures raced against each other to identify survivors fit enough to reproduce. Determined to translate the evolutionary process off-screen, Jansen went to a local shop and found his own alternative to the biological cell -- the humble plastic tube.
"Animals are machines as well," said Jansen. "I was making animals with just the tubes because they were cheap but later on they turned out to be very helpful in making artificial life because they are very flexible and multifunctional as well. I see it now as a sort of protein -- in nature, everything is almost made of protein and you have various uses of protein; you can make nails, hair, skin and bones. There's a lot of variety in what you can do with just one material and this is what I try to do as well."
With plastic tubes costing about 10 cents a meter and with cable ties, nylon strings and adhesive tape doing the rest, these lightweight, insect-like beasts are pretty inexpensive to create. Designed to live on the beach and race on wet sand, their evolution hasn't been easy. While Jansen initially used a computer program to figure out the most effective design to get the feet walking, all of his subsequent creations have been entirely free-form, constructed solely through trial and error. "I've seen a lot of mechanical sculpture, and Jansen's animari are the finest I've seen by far in the 'low-tech clockwork' mechanism category," said Carl Pisaturo, a robotic designer. "By clockwork, I mean mechanisms that have intrinsic, not universally controllable actions, and by low-tech I mean parts more 'crafted' than machined, and the lack of electronic or electrical systems. These are amazing creations and the simplicity of the technology and the fact that they are wind-powered only makes their poetic motions more impressive."
Each animal is made up of 375 replaceable tubes whose respective lengths represent the beast's very own unique "genetic code" influencing its quality and its walking pattern. Many of the initial species failed to stand or died out over time, and later models tackled different problems. The Animaris Arena rolled out a trunk that had a hammer that drove a pin into the ground to prevent itself from being blown away in a storm, and the Animaris Sabulosa tried to push down its nose in the same situation.
Currently, Jansen is working on giving the seventh generation of these creatures, comprising a herd of seven animals, the ability to move even in the wind's absence. His latest creations contain lemonade bottles in their body structure into which the wind is slowly pumped, enabling the creature to walk for a couple of minutes afterward. Eventually, he plans to increase the efficiency so that they can go on for days or even years.
"They have a food source in the wind so they can store energy and use it later on," said Jansen. "The downside is that they might have to wait for days, for the wind hopper to move on and on and then be able to move for maybe five minutes. They are just like snakes. Snakes also lie in the sun for days digesting their food. On the beach the animals have to catch the wind and wait for a long time before they have enough wind in their stomach to go for a walk."
A couple of years ago, Jansen created the Animaris Rhinoceros Transport, a two-ton walking monster also powered by wind energy, which could be set into motion by just one person dragging it along. Having a cockpit and enough room for several people to comfortably sit inside, the rhinoceros represented Jansen's effort to create a machine version of the beach animal used solely for transport akin to the way cars stand for mechanical versions of horses. He says a future version -- a 12-ton behemoth, big enough to have several rooms inside -- could be called the Animaris Mammoth.
"I think they are absolutely beautiful," said Bruce Shapiro, robotic artist. "He has figured out a way to use inexpensive materials to construct wind-powered walking machines. What makes them so compelling is the wave of actuators, like the motion of a centipede's legs. I suspect that, as humans, we recognize this action as specific to living things, hence our fascination with Jansen's 'organisms.'"
By using the pneumatic system as a foundation, Jansen hopes to eventually provide his beasts with nerves, muscles, advanced sensing capabilities and even rudimentary decision makers that mimic the function of the brain, before permanently releasing herds of them out onto the beach. Right now, he allows the animals to race each other and manually replaces the genetic code (tube lengths) of the winner into the rest of the losers. Ultimately, he envisions his animals possessing "life" in a sense, evolving on their own without his intervention.
"I imagine that two animals will meet each other and compare their qualities in some way; have a demonstration somewhere on how they run and how fast they can run and also do some quality comparison on how they survive the winds. And the one with the better quality kills the other one and gives the other its own genetic code. There could be 30 animals on the beach, running around all the time, copying genetic codes. And then it would go on without me."
"I try to remake nature with the idea that while doing this you will uncover the secrets of life and that you will meet the same problems as the real creator," he added.
However, creating autonomous, roaming herds won't be that easy.

 Interview with Theo Jansen

"When the weather was beautiful I thought it was a waste of time to sit in front of the computer"
Interview with Theo Jansen
Theo Jansen is a Dutch artist with a background in science. For the last 15 years, he has been evolving a series of wind-powered animals, made of plastic tubes. When these constructions are fed by wind, they set into motion and transmute into organic-looking creatures; or beach-animals as Jansen calls them.
Theo Jansen received the Jury's Special Price in the Interactive Art category at Ars Electronica Festival 2005. Sebastian Campion met him for a talk.

Long before becoming an artist, you studied science. What brought you from one discipline to the other?
Well, I liked science very much. A science teacher in high school inspired me and because of him I began studying science at the university. But when I got there... well, the subject still attracted me a lot but I had to do all these exams and it was just like working in an office. I couldn't stand that. I was already painting a lot so after seven years of science studies I began studying art instead and then became a professional painter. That's what I did until 1979 when I created a UFO - a flying saucer - which brought the science part back into my work again.

Did you miss science after all?
I didn't miss it. It just came back when I was making the UFO. It was fun to calculate the forces and thinking of the construction.

You have been developing the beach animals for about 15 years. How has the project evolved over the years?
The first beach animal I created didn't have very strong joints. It couldn't even walk or stand, but one night I had a vision about the principle of its feet. So, based on the simple PCV tubes that I still use, I built a computer model and tried to calculate the best way to create a walking movement. This process went on for some months, day and night before I found the right proportion between the lengths of the tubes. The philosophical ideas were not really there from the beginning, but they have grown more complete with the years. It's not important just to make things, but also to reflect about them.
Did real animals or organisms inspire you?
I didn't try to imitate animals. I just wanted to make something new. Afterwards, it turned out that real animals already used the same principle so when people look at the beach animals they often recognize the movement of an animal. But it wasn't my intention.

Apart from using a computer for engineering purposes in the early stages of the beach animals, have you ever been interested in using the computer as an integral part of your artistic work?
Before making the first beach animal I spend some time writing evolution programs of worms that live on the computer screen. I also had periods when I was addicted to the computer. Therefore, I recognize what many people have in the computer world. They jump in at morning and jump out at night. It was also fun for me in a period but after a while I thought: is this my life? When the weather was beautiful I thought it was a waste of time to sit in front of the computer.
Did you have a need for the physical and uncontrollable environment that nature offers?
Yes, I think I did. Because of the beach animals I am often outside in rain and storm and I like that a lot - apart from the heavy storms. I have often been alone on the beach with a herd of animals and when the wind came by, the whole herd would collapse and roll over the beach. Everything would go out of order.

In some sense, we experience nature through you. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that many people find your work fascinating?
Yes, maybe people miss being close to nature. That is probably why they recognize my fun and want to be a part of it. I can be fascinated with very little things. The clouds stimulate my imagination and sometimes I just sit somewhere and go on dreaming for a long time. Your head is also a computer. When you're dreaming you are simulating a world in which you are living. During the night, it's a dream you can't control and during the day it's more like a second life in your head. It's all interpretations of the real world.
You also make people smile. Why do you think that is?
I think they see something in me that they recognize in themselves, perhaps something from their childhood. They want to help me, they want to go with me and join me in my dream. That stimulates me very much. I think that somehow the beach animals are really personal. Some people, who never saw them before, recognize me in the animals when they see them. It's strange but it also feels good. I mean, then I know that I am the inventor and that nobody else could have done it. I am a melancholic type but still, I like to make a joke and I think that is expressed in my work.

After so many years, are you in control of the beach animals or are they really controlling you?
They have always controlled me. I obeyed their laws. Only recently they do what I want.
What will be the next steps?
I think the next steps will be their brains. Now they have stomachs and can walk on air. But the brains are something, which they really need. Right now, I can only leave them alone for 5 minutes and if I want to extend that period they really must learn to think for themselves.
In order for people to live and work, the Netherlands has been forced to design and cultivate its nature like no other country in the world. It seems that your work conceptualizes this pragmatic relationship with nature.
Well, I think the Netherlands will become one big city at a point. It is inevitable when you live in a country with so many people. You cannot afford to leave nature as it is. Some people believe that the dunes should be left in their original state, but I think it's strange to let things become how they were 500 years ago. Of course I prefer to have nature around me, but it doesn't have to be with the exact original vegetation for nostalgic reasons. Nature is moving and making new things.
Theo Jansen: www.strandbeest.com
Photos by Loek van der Klis and Adriaan Kok- www.artificial.dk/

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