For once, not everyone gathered around Cloud Gate this morning was there to take a selfie. Instead, a small group of onlookers was there to watch Dutch artist Theo Jansen walk his Strandbeest kinetic sculpture through Millennium Park in anticipation of his Chicago Cultural Center exhibition, which opens Friday.
Jansen’s Strandbeests, or “beach creatures,” are moving, seemingly breathing sculptures made of PVC pipe, wind sails and zip ties. This morning, the area around “The Bean” was mostly quiet as Jansen gave his creation a nudge—there wasn’t much wind—and off it went, walking slowly and deliberately on its many feet through the small crowd. Jansen and his tool belt full of zip ties was never far away, though at one point the artist did hand his beast off to a young boy who seemed to want to give the creature a walk.
You can see eight of Jansen's Strandbeests (plus sketches and photos of his previous work) for free at the Chicago Cultural Center beginning Friday through May 1 as part of “Strandbeest: The Dream Machines of Theo Jansen,” the artist’s first major American exhibition tour. Jansen, who studied physics, creates masterpieces that combine art with engineering and science.
An opening preview with the artist will take place Friday from 7–9pm at the Cultural Center, or you can take the kids for Strandbeest STEAM Family Day on Saturday from noon–4pm. On Sunday from 1–3pm, the artist will join Lawrence Weschler, Chicago Humanities Festival’s emeritus artistic director, for a discussion of Jansen’s experiences over the last 25 years of making his Strandbeests.
For a full list of events and daily demonstrations, visit chicagoculturalcenter.org.