In February I was on my way to a zine fair at Melbourne Town Hall and I got the tram that meant I’d have some extra walking to do once I got to Swanston St. I was bummed that I’d missed the 48, until my tram pulled up next to Fed Square and I caught a glimpse of something that was so familiar it made me lurch with excitement. Yet I couldn’t quite believe I could actually be looking at what I was seeing. I think I even made an audible squeak of glee.
I raced across the road and yes, there were two of Theo Jansen’s kinetic sculptures! I recognised their structures from the TED talk I had seen where he demonstrated the way these creatures – his “Strandbeests” – move. At Fed Square there was even one open to the public to walk with and see its plastic joints in operation. You can see a little girl pushing it along.
The structures are built from plastic tubes and bottles. The large Strandbeest that was on display was one of the new generation that can move independently. It’s powered by wind captured in the wings that you can see below, and pumped into old lemonade bottles, that in turn pipe air into the legs. With the intricate mechanics of the pipes, I never imagined that I would see one of these sculptures in Melbourne! I can’t help but wonder how on earth they are transported, or reconstructed, if they are broken down for packing.
Or perhaps Jansen has found a way for them to float across the oceans! As he says in his TED talk below, the creatures are designed not only to move, but even to survive on their own.