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Exploratorium
May 2, 2016
Theo Jansen

Strandbeest Invasion at The Exploratorium

The Strandbeest Invasion exhibit has ended. Please visit the Exploratorium for current exhibitions.

This summer, San Francisco audiences will have a unique opportunity to see and experience the global phenomena known as Strandbeests (“beach animals” in Dutch), the wind-powered creatures that blur the lines between art, science and engineering. Open Memorial Day through Labor Day weekends, this temporary exhibition at the Exploratorium. 

Strandbeest: The Dream Machines of Theo Jansen features large-scale kinetic sculptures, including Jansen’s newest and never-before-seen Animaris Umerus Segundus, as well as artist sketches, immersive video, and the lyrical photography by Lena Herzog, who spent more than seven years documenting the Strandbeests’ evolution. This exhibition is the first large-scale museum presentation of Jansen's Strandbeests in the Americas, and the Exploratorium serves as the exclusive West Coast venue.

First conceived as a thought experiment in the spirit of Albert Einstein, Strandbeests have evolved over the last 20 years through Jansen's passionate process of prodigious tinkering, iteration and adaptation. Made entirely of PVC pipe and zip ties, the animals were originally inspired by the threat of rising sea levels; the mechanical creatures were functional and able to pile sand back up on the dunes. Over time, the animals evolved as Jansen became more fascinated with exploring ideas around the origins of life, and as he assembled more complex and lifelike creatures, with specialized adaptations to help them survive in their seaside environment.

Participatory, hands-on and kinetic, the exhibition invites the public to “walk” a Strandbeest (Animarus Ordis) in the galleries. Animaris Suspendisse, Jansen's 42-foot-long, pneumatically powered creature  - with a responsive nervous system, sweat glands and wind stomachs - will come alive alongside Animarus Umerus Segundus during the museum's Beest Walking Demos, taking place three times daily during standard hours. The Exploratorium's After Dark programming has also scheduled walking demos, twice each Thursday night during the exhibition's run.

In addition to Jansen's most recent and ambitious Strandbeests, a collection of “fossils” (the term Jansen uses for his retired creations) and the future of their evolution is celebrated through a section of the exhibition that captures his 20-year process of invention.

With a focus on experiential, experimental and inclusive works, the Exploratorium is a fitting exhibit space for Jansen's work. His creative process behind Strandbeest: The Dream Machines of Theo Jansen perfectly embodies the Exploratorium’s interdisciplinary and inquiry-based approach to art, discovery and learning.

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