Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef

3927200894_4b1bd12956Coral reef – photo by
Steve Straiton.
For crocheted reefs

Along with a worldwide group of women  collaborators, artists Margaret and Christine  Wertheim are crocheting coral reefs. Leslie Dick,  LA based writer and teacher at CalArts, alerted me  to this sublime project which she recently wrote  about in X-Tra magazine. The reef has been growing  since 2005, as women have got involved in a moving  act of co-creation in homage to The Great Barrier Reef, which is under threat from pollutants and climate change.  The Wertheim twins describe the reef project as a “woolly celebration of the intersection of higher geometry and feminine handicraft, and a testimony to the disappearing wonders of the natural world. ” It’s one of the projects coming out of The Institute for Figuring, through which the artists are exploring the  space where aesthetics meets mathematics,  and was triggered by work by mathematician Dr Daina Taimina who discovered hyperbolic crochet – which comes about by increasing each line by a stitch.  The crocheted forms can be very beautiful, and apparently true to coral reef structure.  It’s a fascinating project in many ways, and Leslie Dick’s article (which infortunately isn’t available online right now) reflects on the way that the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef explodes a preconception that craft and ideas don’t go together,  and instead presents ” handicraft as a place and (more importantly) a time for thinking about mathematics, about color, texture, and form, about ecology and climate change, about community and women’s experience, and about art.”  What’s interesting about the reef as a collaborative project is how the variations that the distributed women creators bring to it contribute to its success – their diverse shapes, colours, textures echoing the awesome diversity of the marine environment.  Within a formula taught in workshops participants are encouraged to do their own thing – using materials of their own choice and bringing their own permutations to the design. The website advises, “As you explore, be playful…Experiment with different types of yarn…consider using string,wire or plastic, or anything else that takes your fancy… Just as living organisms continually evolve and morph into new forms, so too there is an endless taxonomy of crochet reef forms awaiting to be.”  I missed The Reef when it was shown at the Hayward Gallery in 2008 and the tour of the UK reef that followed. But it’s my urgent ambition now to see it. I might even take up a crochet hook.