Delft-based artist Theo Jansen (born 1948) became world-famous with his ingenious and impressive “beach beasts”—mechanical creatures that he places on beaches to roam freely by themselves, propelled by the wind.
The artist has been working on these new forms of life since 1990. “Beach beasts” are made from PVC electrical conduits, and get their energy from wind (and therefore, unlike sentient animals, do not have to eat). The evolution of these extraordinary creatures extends over many generations. Eventually, Jansen hopes to establish herds of these animals on the beaches. Repeating creation in this way, he hopes to learn more about existing nature: after all, he is tackling the same problems as the creator. This book—an expanded edition of Jansen’s popular 2013 monograph—recounts his experiences as God.
In The Great Pretender, kinetic artist Theo Jansen shows that the concept of ‘I’ is merely a tool in our evolution. We need this tool to be selfish. There can be no selfishness without the I-fantasy. Since 1990, Theo Jansen has been engaged in creating new forms of life: beach animals made from yellow plastic tubing. Skeletons made from these tubes are able to walk, deriving their nutrition from the wind. They evolved over many generations, becoming increasingly adept at surviving storms and water from the sea. Theo Jansen’s ultimate wish is to release herds of these animals on the shore. In reenacting Genesis, so to speak, he hopes to become wiser in his dealings with the existing nature by encountering problems the ‘creator’ had to face. The Great Pretender is a account of Jansen’s experiences as God.