Spectacle can be defined as the category containing computational art created by commercial studios and highly funded collectives that focuses on being impressive through scale, detail, or polish.

Speculation can be defined as the computational art, often academic, that yields more freedom to speak critically about society, while usually relying on technicians hired by the artist to handle the technical aspects of the project.


Image result for strandbeest

Theo Jansen's Strandbeests, while not fitting totally cleanly into one category or another, definitely align more closely with spectacle. They are an evolved and evolving species of physical sculpture whose evolution (at least that of the mechanical leg components, as the evolution is a mix of computer generation and educated human choices) is driven by an evolutionary algorithm working towards an ideal walk pattern. The project carries little to no social message, and is rather an exploration in the creation of mechanical life forms. Many of the creatures exist on a massive scale. They are incredibly, sometimes twice or three times the height of a human, and their massive sales wave in the wind. They arrest attention as they walk down beaches (their primary habitat).

By the dichotomies presented in Warburton's video, Strandbeests clearly fall more into the category of spectacle. The sculptures' evolution and release seems to indicate a sense of acceleration rather than dragging. While many of the changes may be small, there are moments of major leaps forward in the sculptures' technology. The pieces are massively visible: they are released in public spaces (beaches), move, are mesmerizing to look at, and they are very large objects. They seem to exist in a surplus: there are a lot of these sculptures at various stages of the evolution, many of them move along the same beaches rather than become waste. In a departure from spectacle, though, the sculptures are most certainly art over commerce. They are not designed to be bought and sold, rather they are designed to be observed and appreciated. Finally, they exist somewhere in between function and dysfunction. While the sculptures do not serve a necessary function in society, every iteration of the Strandbeest introduces some sort of functional mechanical advantage making it a better survivor than the last: better leg part ratios, more efficient methods for capturing energy from the wind, balance or collision avoidance, etc.