Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Do yourself a favor and go see the "Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef" exhibit curated by Margaret and Christine Wertheim at Track 16 Gallery in Santa Monica. It's one of those rare exhibits that is powerful, accessible, fun and at the same time relevant social commentary. The exhibit curated by the sisters was conceived to heighten awareness of the environmental crisis threatening the Great Barrier Reef, located off the coast of northeastern Australia. The world’s biggest structure made by living organisms, the Great Barrier Reef covers an area of 133,000 square miles and can be seen from outer space. Climate change is taking a severe toll on the reef, and is affecting available habitat of much of the sea life there.
The surprising inspiration for the concept is the Hyperbolic forms that appear throughout the natural world — in kelp, anemones and coral reefs, for example. Though mathematicians had long believed this space impossible, nature has been working with hyperbolic space for hundreds of millions of years. In 1997, Dr. Daina Taimina (a Cornell professor) realized how to make models of this geometry using crochet, a discovery that blew the minds of the mathematical world.
The Wertheims consider the Crochet Reef produced by the efforts of hundreds of contributors to be mostly complete and have shifted their attention to the "Toxic Reef". Initiated in response to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a mass of plastic debris located in the north Pacific that’s twice the size of Texas and 30 meters deep, the Toxic Reef is made of yarn and plastic trash.
According to the sisters "The Woolen Reef is done because we simply can’t handle anymore, but the Plastic Reef is still growing. We’ve been working on it for two years and it probably needs another year of development. Far fewer people have been interested in working with plastics, but there’s certainly an abundance of raw material. We’re using plastic shopping bags, cassette tape and a monumental amount of videotape. I’ve been making out of videotapes giant kelps that are amazing. Many people hate the plastic reef. It’s much less popular than the Woolen Reef."
Crochet Reef is on view at Track 16 Gallery from January 10 through February 21. On Saturday, January 17, 2-4 p.m., the Wertheims host a workshop on crocheting plastic bags, followed by a lecture, 4-6 p.m., on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by Captain Charles Moore. Reception at 6-9 p.m. Track 16, Bergamot Station C-1, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 264-4678.