Alien, column by Theo Jansen in de Volkskrant newspaper, 8- 13-1994

Translated by John den Exter

I often play the man who fell to earth. I imagine that I came from an alien planet and that, disguised as earthling, I mingle with these silly earthlings.

On the street I witness the earthly life.  I don’t seem to be able to link the actions to the activities of these beings with whom I would like to get in touch with. It's a mess.

My attention is drawn by a row of earthlings in front of a hole in a wall (ATM , but I pretend  I don’t know ). I position myself behind the queue. Between me and the row of waiting earthlings exists a yawning gap. So I am in line, but at the same time I’m not.

The following ritual repeats itself several times. An earthling approaches. He stands close to me and makes (so I suppose) an incomprehensible noise. ('”Are you standing in line?") I respond with a back and forth movement of the head, as instructed by the cosmic authorities. Then latest arrival falls in line in front of me. Then I take a step back to again create a gap between me and the rest of the row.

Hence I quickly found a way to communicate with the earthlings.

For communication, the size of the gap is crucial; a large gap motivates the earthlings to overtake me, a small gap moves them to the back. Just the right distance (75 cm.) elicits the sound that came from the latest arrival. I could stand here for days and terrestrial communications would roll along like a perpetuum mobile, a computer programme:


IF gap <75

Connect = back


Connect = front

IF gap = 75

Sound = 1

Shake head = 1




I come home to the earthling assigned to me by the cosmic authorities as my wife. I give her a kiss on her mouth as prescribed. I put the out the trash as prescribed, do the dishes as prescribed, take the kids to school as prescribed.

I do anything your programmes prescribe me , but I do this as a cosmonaut , for many years . In my view, life is therefore easier to bear. You do not operate for yourself but for the cosmos.

At the same time it appears that the longer you immerse yourself in that roIe, the clearer it becomes that we are indeed cosmonauts . We come to this planet, live a life and beat it .

Each of us carries out a mission impossible. In real life.