Mad scientists have long wished to create life. Shelly’s Dr. Frankenstein attempted to animate dead flesh, H.G. Well’s Doctor Moreau attempted to splice the DNA of animals and humans, and the archetypical movie mad scientist, Fritz Lang’s Rotwang, attempted to people his Metropolis with mechanical life. Whether all this amounts to expressions of womb envy, they are not completely fictional. Theo Jansen, for one, has invented what he calls “Animari,” kinetic sculptures, or “beach creatures” made of plastic tubing, cardboard boxes, plastic bottles, hose, and tape, which he hope will outlive him.
Jansen once studied physics, leaving it to become a painter. He combined the two to create painting machines, but brought them both to their final use in the creation of the Animari. He has been “evolving” his beach-walking creations, choosing the best parts from each of his multi-legged creatures to make stronger and better units.
He began with an 11-piece leg designed with computer algorithms, but has since evolved them to propel themselves from wind energy, to sense obstacles, and to even anchor themselves down for a storm.
His hope is that the mechanical beasts will evolve to become so autonomous that they will survive him, grazing on the wind of the Dutch sea-side long after his death.