The Earth Is Not A Perfect Sphere

Installation view2_for webInstallation view_for web

The Earth is Not a Perfect Sphere
solo exhibition
The Orangerie, Oitbacka Gård
20 – 30 June, 2016

Since the first scientific estimation of the radius of the earth in c. 240 BC by the Greek mathematician Eratosthenes, scientists and mathematicians have sought ever-more accurate models for the figure of the Earth. As a lens with which to examine history’s changing conceptions of progress, The Earth Is Not A Perfect Sphere takes as its starting point one of these models, the Struve Geodetic Arc – a chain of nineteenth-century survey triangulations stretching over 2,820km from Norway to the Black Sea. In Finland, the Arc partly retraced an earlier series of triangulations carried out in the 1730s by the mathematician Pierre Maupertuis, sent by the French Academy of Sciences to conclusively determine the accurate shape of the earth.

While the original series of measurements for the Arc consisted of 258 main triangles, with 265 main station points, since becoming recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2005, only 34 of the original station points have been maintained.

Carried out between 1816 and 1855 by a tea led by the German-born Russian astronomer, Friedrich Georg Wilhelm Struve, the survey represented the first accurate measuring of a long segment of a meridian. The measurements helped to establish – building upon the work done a century earlier by Maupertuis to confirm Newton’s hypothesis that the earth tapered at the poles in a spheroid shape, rather than an ellipsoid shape – the exact size and shape of the planet. Of course, today these measurements, which took nearly forty years in the nineteenth century, can today be replicated in a matter of months using modern GPS satellites, thus rendering the work of Struve and his team technologically redundant, even while its importance as a cultural artefact is retained.

During 2015 – 2016, I journeyed to the six remaining Struve Arc measurement sites in Finland, from the far reaches of Lapland to a small island in the Gulf of Finland. The exhibition includes documentation of these journeys, as well as work created in response: The Earth is Not a Perfect Sphere – a series of ceramic globes that chart our changing imaginings of the shape of the Earth; A Compendium of Progress– 14 lithographic prints that trace the shifting arguments for progress in Western society; and Models for Monuments to Anachronistic Progress – six models for sculptures in granite sourced from sites near Finland’s Struve points to commemorate the now-redundant achievements of the 39-year undertaking.

Struve Geodetic Arc sites in Finland

“Stuor-Oivi” (Stuorrahanoaivi) in Enontekiö (68°40’57”N 22°44’45”E)
“Avasaksa” (Aavasaksa) in Ylitornio (66°23’52”N 23°43’31”E)
“Torneå” (Alatornion kirkko) in Tornio (65°49’48”N 24°09’26”E)
“Puolakka” (Oravivuori) in Korpilahti (61°55’36”N 25°32’01”E)
“Porlom II” (Tornikallio) in Lapinjärvi (60°42’17”N 26°00’12”E)
“Svartvira” (Mustaviiri) in Pyhtää (60°16’35”N 26°36’12”E)



The Earth is Not a Perfect Sphere
Hand-built ceramic models of the earth in earthenware (archaic flat earth), stoneware (Pythagorean sphere and Cassini’s prolate spheroid), and porcelain (Newton’s oblate spheroid and the geoid, a representation of the ‘true physical figure of the earth’).
Dimensions variable



A Compendium of Progress
78 x 50cm, stone lithographs using “ghost printing” technique
14 print series
Edition of 1

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List of texts in the Compendium:

Xenophanes, Fragment B18 (c. 570 – 475 BC)
Machiavelli, Discorsi sopra la prima Deca di Tito Livio (1531)
de Fontenelle, Digression sur les Anciens et les Modernes (1688)
Leibniz, De Rerum Originatione (1697)
Condorcet, Esquisse d’un Tableau Historique des Progrès de l’Esprit Humain (1793)
Tennyson, from ‘Locksley Hall’ (1835)
de Gobineau, Essai sur l’inégalité des races humaines (1852)
Kraus, ‘Der Fortschritt’ (1909)
Spengler, The Decline of the West (1918)
Eliot, from ‘Four Quartets’ (1943)
Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty (1960)
von Wright, Myten om framsteget (1993)
Pinker, The Better Angels of our Nature (2011)
Sam Riviere, ‘Cuts’ from 81 Austerities (2011)


Models for Monuments to Anachronistic Progress 
Granite extracted from quarries near the Struve Geodetic Arc sites:
Lappia Green, Lapland Black, Sangis Black,
Korpilahti Black, Myrskyla Red, Eagle Red
Dimensions variable


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Untitled [a journey to the Struve Geodetic Arc sites in Finland]
Black and white hand prints on Foma fibre paper
Granite from Struve Arc sites in Finland
Dimensions variable

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