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  • Leica GIS and GPS Systems Plotted Crop Art
Feb 2004
ST. GALLEN, Switzerland, Feb. 19 -- If you flew over Switzerland's Rhine Valley last year, you might have been surprised to see massive colorful artworks growing in the fields below.

In celebration of the bicentennial anniversary of the Swiss canton of St. Gallen, artists created 13 gigantic crop images, using geographic information systems (GIS) and high-precision global positioning surveying systems (GPSS) supplied by Leica Geosystems, which has its Swiss headquarters in St. Gallen.

HUMANS LEAVE TRACKS: Erna Reich, created the largest example of LandArte, covering more than three kilometers.

The LandArte works, some of which measure several kilometers in length, were created by artists from Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria and Finland. Each of the 13 projects is an original and unique work of art, created entirely through crop plantings, which sprouted and changed their appearance through the growing season.

To transfer their designs from paper onto the landscape, the artists used Leica's GS20 handheld GPS/GIS and System 500 high-precision GPS surveying instruments. Professor Peter Petschek, from the Rapperswil Technology University, and his landscape gardening students were responsible for setting out the artworks in the fields. After digitizing the artworks, they transferred this data into the local grid. Students Urs Haerden and Daniel Baur, together with the farmers, staked out the images using the GS20 and System 500.

Baur said, "We had never worked with a GPS instrument before, but after two hours of training we were able to easily stake out all of the LandArte."

In order to document and preserve the LandArte creations for posterity, Leica Geosystems captured high-resolution images from aircraft and satellites.

The LandArte works included a wide variety of artistic interpretations. For instance, "Earth Signals" by artist Herbert Fritsch, represents a giant eye, 1.2-km long, incorporating a cluster of farm structures as the pupil, and Sepp Azzola's "Earthling" is a human figure with a span of 350 meters. Jonny Muller's "When the Beetle Seeks the Tiger" incorporates poppy-red and cornflower-blue flowers around three fruit trees, with tiger stripes of green corn and grains. "Emergency Exit" by Sunhild Wollwage shows two human figures circling a globe, and "Space Contact" by artist Kuspi, in the wine-growing village of Berneck, looks like a huge docking station for extraterrestrials. The largest artwork, "Humans Leave Tracks," by Erna Reich, extends over a distance of more than three kilometers. One work, "Mother Earth," was created by five inmates from the Saxerriet prison under a support program.

More LandArte images can be viewed at Leica Geosystems' website:

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