Grid Corrections / Introduction by Peter Delpeut
During a residence in Wichita (Kansas) in 2016 Gerco de Ruijter went in search of landscapes he could photograph with his kite. Driving along perfectly straight dusty roads, he was surprised to encounter bends and T-junctions every 20 miles or so in the otherwise geometric road network. On enquiry, he was told that this was a remnant of the Jefferson Grid.
In the late 18th century President Jefferson commissioned surveyors to divide the Midwest and Southwest of the United States into square lots, each exactly one mile long and one mile wide. Colonists could choose their plot and then work it. But the surveyors had a problem. It is not possible simply to divide the earth into square plots. One cannot roll out a geometric, two-dimensional grid over a round planet. The earth is spherical, so the imaginary lines of longitude converge. In order to divide the plots fairly and democratically, therefore, the grid had to be corrected. The grid corrections brought theory and practice back into line every 20 miles.
The Jefferson Grid still defines the road network in the American Midwest. But the perfectly straight roads also have to be corrected. It is easy to see on Google Earth how these repeated corrections have produced fascinating crossroads: straight or curved, and always inventive. De Ruijter collected thousands of these corrections and created a stop-motion film, Grid Corrections. The film shows in a dazzling way how man has tried to exert control over the earth. Nature may seem stronger than humanity, but at the same time humans constantly manage to overcome nature with their boundless inventiveness.
As a follow-up to the film installation De Ruijter is now working on an exhibition in which the grid corrections in the American landscape will be presented with the found imagery in Google Earth. It will not feature traditional cropped photographs in rectangular frames, but pictures which, in their presentation, match the interventions in the road network. The line running east to west is like a horizon on the wall, and the corrected north-south lines define the corrections in the photo frames, creating a single continuous work in which form comments on image, and vice versa.
The photobook Grid Corrections will be published to accompany the exhibition. Unlike the exhibition, it takes an encyclopaedic approach, constituting a kind of database of grid corrections, in towns, agricultural regions, deserts, through all the seasons, under a layer of snow or in a desiccated landscape, round rivers and lakes, and so on. Since the offsets in the grid are all different, this results in a multi-form series of images and intermediate forms in the book, too.
Renowned graphic designer Irma Boom has designed a challenging layout and binding for the book that also push the boundaries of the traditional framed book.