• Artist Clement Valla finds irregularities in Google Earth imagery and compiles his findings in a series, "Postcards from Google Earth." This landscape is in Italy. (Clement Valla/Google Earth)
  • Valla, a Brooklyn-based artist and faculty member at the Rhode Island School of Design, spotted his first glitch in 2010. He kept searching and found this landscape in satellite imagery of Switzerland. (Clement Valla/Google Earth)
  • Here, Valla's view of Los Angeles. (Clement Valla/Google Earth)
  • Valla found that bridges often appeared to dip into ravines. (Clement Valla/Google Earth)
  • Landmarks were not immune to Google's glitches. Here, the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco. (Clement Valla/Google Earth)
  • Valla found this bendy bridge in satellite image of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. (Clement Valla/Google Earth)
  • This warped highway is from Pittsburgh, P.A. (Clement Valla/Google Earth)
  • Valla found these images by spending his time virtually scrolling down highways. (Clement Valla/Google Earth)
  • The irregularities form when the aerial photography follows the topographic models too closely. (Clement Valla/Google Earth)
  • Valla found this image in the Appalachia region. (Clement Valla/Google Earth)
  • This Artist Finds Strange Beauty in Google’s Apocalyptic Glitches

    Clement Valla makes art out of Google Earth’s surrealist irregularities

    Smithsonian Magazine | Subscribe

    Concave bridges and melting highways may sound apocalyptic, but Brooklyn-based artist Clement Valla spotted them one day on Google Earth. The irregularities arise from the process Google uses to make its maps, which combines satellite and airplane photography with 3-D models of terrain. When those models exclude man-made structures, the results can be topographical glitches, like these pictured above. The amount of distortion depends on the angle the image was shot from and the depth of the natural landscape. As Google udpates its mapping data, the anomalies correct themselves. The ephemeral images, which Valla collects in a continuing series called "Postcards from Google Earth," speak to our age-old desire to measure the world and, simultaneously, evade detection. A Google spokeswoman tells us that its "views of the Earth can sometimes appear patchy - but one man's patch is another man's treasure."

    About Max Kutner
    Max Kutner

    Max Kutner was the editorial intern for Smithsonian. He is now a staff writer at Newsweek and has contributed to Boston magazine and other publications.

    Read more from this author |
    Tags

    Comment on this Story

    comments powered by Disqus