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This guy recreates classic illusions with incredible moving Lego sculptures

You won’t believe your eyes…


(Teun de Wijs)

(Teun de Wijs)

(Teun de Wijs)

There’s always been something magical about Lego, but this artist is taking things to another level.

Teun de Wijs, a Lego fan from Amsterdam, is creating incredible moving sculptures, known as automata, from the popular plastic bricks – and the results are mesmerising.

His latest effort recreates a classic magician’s illusion – the levitating woman.

“I think the best automata have some kind of gimmick, be it a mechanical wow-factor or a simple joke,” Teun, 42, told the Press Association.

That is evident throughout his work, with other automata in his collection ranging from a snake charmer to an air guitar-playing old rocker.

Magic is a recurring theme – with a clever wizard’s box trick among his most popular videos.

“Automata are mechanised imitations of life,” Teun explained. “The first examples of kinetic art go back thousands of years, but I saw my first example some 30 years ago in a children’s magazine article about the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre, the world’s first automata museum in London’s Covent Garden.

“I was instantly mesmerised by the imagination, humour, skill and the inventiveness behind these moving sculptures, and begged my parents to take me and my sister there. The sweethearts eventually granted my wish, and I was in heaven!”

Teun built Lego automata as a child – indeed, his father still has 8mm film of the first one he ever made – and into his teens before the hobby got overtaken by other interests.

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He rediscovered his love of them a couple of years ago when he introduced the art form to his then three-year-old son.

“Since then I’ve posted only nine models, of varying quality, on YouTube, but a few blogs picked them up and the positive response has been overwhelming,” he said. “Lego people are sweethearts.”

In his day job, Teun works in the technical department of Nemo, which he describes as “Europe’s coolest science museum”, so his time for constructing his sculptures is limited.

“Since I usually only have time to build in the evening, my models take about from two to four months,” he said. “I spend a lot of time on trial and error (mostly error), and making a mock-up from random pieces.

“Then I order the pretty parts and rebuild most of it, a painstaking but extremely satisfying process.”

Although Lego is a medium well-suited to automata, it remains a fairly niche area.

Teun cites JK Brickworks, and in particular Jason Allemann’s Sisyphus sculpture, which he describes as “unsurpassed”, as the best out there.

“It seems strange to me that there seem to be only a handful of people building automata from Lego,” he said. “The medium is just perfect for it, but the Lego world seems to be rather strictly divided between technic builders and sculptors.

“To me, the magic happens by bringing the two worlds together.”

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