Theo Jansen (born March 17, 1948, in The Hague, Netherlands) is a Dutch artist and kinetic sculptor. He builds large works which resemble skeletons of animals and are able to walk using the wind on the beaches of the Netherlands. His animated works are a fusion of art and engineering; in a car company television commercial Jansen says: "The walls between art and engineering exist only in our minds."
Jansen is dedicated to creating artificial life through the use of genetic algorithms, which simulate evolution inside their code. Genetic algorithms can be modified to solve a variety of problems including circuit design, and in the case of Jansen's creations, complex systems. Some measure of "fitness" is introduced into the algorithm; in Theo's case it is to survive on the beach while moving around within two enclosing lines on the wet sand near the ocean and the dry sand at the edge of the beach. Those designs best at the assigned task within the modeled beach environment are bred together and graded again. Over time complex designs emerge which sprout wings and flap in the breeze pressurizing what look like plastic two liter soda bottles. Articulated legs sprout and scuttle across the sand like those of a crab. Jansen uses plastic electrical conduit to make some of the computer's most promising designs; and he then lets them roam free on the beach, measures their success, and updates his model.
According to his website (Strandbeest.com):
Since about ten years Theo Jansen is occupied with the making of a new nature. Not pollen or seeds but plastic yellow tubes are used as the basic material of this new nature. He makes skeletons which are able to walk on the wind. Eventually he wants to put these animals out in herds on the beaches, so they will live their own lives.