We're damn lucky to live in the centre of Mexico City. Not only are there countless museums, special exhibitions and events to keep you busy without ever having to leave the area, but once in a while it's a true gem that arrives practically at your doorstep, like Theo Jansen's Strandbeesten! At Laboratorio Arte Alameda, which is a convent-cum-museum a couple of blocks from us!
Theo Jansen is a Dutch artist that's been building "beach beasts" (strandbeesten) for some 30 years, using simply materials but incredibly complex engineering. Theo describes his creations as living beings that reproduce by infecting our brains and making other humans bring more to life. His strandbeesten have been "evolving" with time, developing better walking capabilities, better interaction with their environment so they won't drown and so they won't be carried away by the winds of the beaches they "inhabit", they've developed "muscles" and "stomachs" that keep them moving even when the air they "feed" on stops blowing...
The exhibition we visited even had an evolutionary chart of all of Theo's creations! He really does take seriously the whole evolution aspect! As a matter of fact, what you see below, bar the last one, are basically fossils (why, of course! these are species that preceded the current one, right?).
The most recent species seems to be this one here. The "stomachs" store compressed air and, once the wind stops blowing, simple physics lets the air out once more and makes this strange creature move forward in brief, tentative steps.
Just seeing these creatures by themselves, static, would have been enough. But twice a day they inject compressed air into the strandbeest and it moves! It's amazing how these simple automatons capture our imagination and attention! They also have a fossil that you can operate manually by pushing it, and people were definitely lining up for that too!
I never thought I'd see a strandbeest up close. And having a better understanding of Theo's views of his own strandbeesten made it so much better. Loved this. LOVED this.