Today I established a connection with the creator of it all: Theo Jansen.
I think one of the most important parts of doing independent work, ironically, is to collaborate. The most important part of this, is putting yourself out there to establish a secure connection. Hopefully any response from my outreach will inform my future process, and gain some knowledge both on specific aspects and on the project as a whole. As part of my senior project, I’ll be venturing to Europe, and could maybe swing by Holland to chat with Mr. Jansen. Here is the email I sent:
Beste Meneer Jansen,
My name is Lukas DeSimone, and I’m a high school student at Westtown School in West Chester, Pennsylvania. I’m sorry I cannot write the rest of this letter in your native tongue, a greeting is the best I can do: hoi! I love your work. In 6th or 7th grade, I saw one of your TED talks, and of course, I was blown away. I’d never seen anything like those strandbeests. The first thing that came to my mind: how could someone come up with such an idea, see it in their head, and then have the courage to dedicate part of their life’s work to it. The strandbeest opened my eyes to an interdisciplinary world of creativity, how integrating engineering into art can make a piece that can start a complex conversation with the viewer and leave a lasting impression. I’ve immersed myself into this space as of late, and it’s made me realize the importance of creating something that’s both beautiful and dynamic. You’re truly a role model for me both as an artist and as an engineer/inventor. The processes you employ to make those beests, the aesthetic consistency and evolution of the series, and my understanding of the holistic message you send through your work is every bit as inspirational as the animal’s own movement.
The second thing that came to my mind after I saw the talk was, “I could probably build that.” I’ve always been passionate about creating and breaking things with my hands, from alarm clocks to tree houses to kleine dampfmaschine (my mom is German), and I thought a strandbeest would be a fantastic challenge. So, around five years later, I started to build my own version of the strandbeests. I named it Grazer, and went about building it out of box aluminum. Right now, it’s barely anything, just a single leg held together with pins. I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out how to make some of the parts — the joints mostly — using my school’s CNC mill to make them. It’s definitely been a learning experience, but I’ve documented it all. I’ve been writing weekly blog posts for my school, and even gave my own TED-style talk (instead called TECHedADVIS, not nearly as snappy of a name) on my whole experience with this project. I attached links to my work at the bottom of this email.
The third thing that came to my mind after I saw the talk was, “I want to meet that guy.” This coming March, I will be visiting Holland on a trip to Germany, so I was wondering if I could meet with you to talk about your whole experience as both an artist and an engineer, two paths that I want to keep in my own life in some capacity. I would love your insight into the project, who better to ask than the person who invented it? I see on your website that there’s a March exhibition at the Hague, will you be there then? I’m a huge fan of your work, and would be very interested in getting some extra insight on it all. Best of luck with all of your endeavors.
My talk: https://vimeo.com/142551661
Hopefully a response will come shortly.