Are Crop Circles Geometric Art?

In one of my very first posts (“What IS Geometric Art?“) I offered up the following definition of Geometric Art:

Geometric Art (or more broadly, “the Geometric Arts”): visual art, crafts, or decoration whose purpose is to explicitly celebrate the beauty inherent in geometric shapes and patterns

After dissecting the definition a bit I went on to point out that, as with any definition, there will always be cases that land in the “grey area”.  One specific case that occurred to me in that moment was crop circles, so I thought I’d circle back today and consider this case in a little more depth.

What Are Crop Circles?

I imagine that most people have seen or heard about crop cricles at some point along the way, but just in case you’ve never heard of them…

Every year (at least in the past few decades, I’m not sure how far back the phenomenon goes), there appear in fields around the world large shapes, most often geometric in nature, that appear to have been “trampled down” or in some way flattened out of a growing crop of grain. The majority of them appear in the United Kingdom, but they have also been found throughout Europe, the United States, and other places around the world. They vary in size but are generally quite large and “designed” (if they are designed – more on that in a moment) to be viewed from the air. Some are simply circles, discs, or other primitive shapes, but over time they have generally grown more and more complex and beautiful. Here is an example of an especially beautiful and complex one:

Crop circle known as "Milk Hill Galaxy", 2001

The Mystery of Crop Circles

What makes crop circles so fascinating – beyond their inherent beauty – is that no one knows for sure how they come into existence.  They most often appear overnight, often in a very short span of time, making it seem impossible that any single person (or even a team of people) could have created them. Many sites also purportedly have strange phenomena associated with them – unusual electrical, magnetic, or other forces, noises, lights, etc. All of this has led many to speculate causes ranging from obscure natural phenomena to aliens. While this is all hugely intriguing and a subject of vigorous debate, since I never specified human or non-human in my definition, I can technically dodge this whole discussion. After all, I would never want to cut the Cylons or the Martians out of the Geometric Arts community simply because they aren’t from Earth. :-)

So – Is it Geometric Art?

However, not knowing exactly how they come into being does create difficulty in deciding whether crop circles fit the definition I’ve put out, specifically because of the “arts, crafts, or decoration” phrase. Although I (unwittingly, I confess!) never explicitly mentioned a human agent, clearly I was assuming some agent, since art, crafts, and decoration are purposeful activities.  So, if it were to be proven that crop circles are naturally arising phenomena, I’d have to say that they fail my definition; if they’re created by anybody (human or otherwise), then I’d say they qualify.

My personal opinion is that at least the more complex crop circles (which are the ones I find most beautiful and interesting anyway), are way too regular and complex to be the result of wind, or magnetic storms, or whatever. I feel that someone or something must have purposely created them. And so, I’m going to say that yes, I think crop circles ARE geometric art.

What Do YOU Think?

So, that’s my take.  Anyone out there feel differently? If so, please comment below! In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a few juicy links about crop circles in case you’d like to do your own exploration before deciding…



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2 Responses to Are Crop Circles Geometric Art?

  1. avatar
    Megan McDonough October 18, 2011 at 6:33 am #

    No doubt in my mind–crop circles are most definitely geometric art. They are stunning to look at and even more amazing to contemplate–and that certainly puts them in the “art” category for me!

    • avatar
      Phil Webster October 18, 2011 at 5:43 pm #

      Cool, I’m glad you agree!