An extraordinary crochet project by two sisters presented at the Frieder Burda Museum in Baden-Baden brings together art, science and knitting to highlight the ecological threats facing coral reefs around the world in the context of climate change.
Margaret and Christine Wertheim, whose project blends mathematics, critical theory and feminism has been exhibited around the world, including at the 2019 Venice Biennale. But that’s only part of the project. Since 2019, the sisters have also provided volunteers around the world (including New York, London, Melbourne) with everything they need to contribute to their own crochet projects.
“Just as living things evolve through small changes in an underlying DNA code, crochet coral reef evolves through small changes in an underlying crochet code,” the sisters said in a statement. “Thus, there is an emerging taxonomy of crochet coral ‘organisms’.”
Margaret, a prolific science and cultural history writer, and Christine, a critical studies teacher at Goldsmiths College and the Calarts, joined forces as artists in 2005 to launch the project.
Seeing the dot patterns of coral reefs as a form of scientific or genetic code, the sisters found a fan in the museum’s artistic director Frieder Burda, Udo Kittelmann.
“Margaret and Christine’s work is so unique, so strong, and carries such an important message,” he told Artnet News. “In my work, it is crucial to mount an exhibition that touches and inspires and ultimately creates in us the desire to engage and be part of the effort. The idea of exploring the science and mathematics of corals was something I had never thought of this way before.
After more than two years of confinement, the Baden-Baden fair was a new opportunity for the Wertheim sisters to work with the locals: around 5,000 people from the surrounding area contributed to the reef exhibited at the museum.
“It was my explicit wish to bring a project to Baden-Baden that was not only an exhibition about artistic practice, but also about inviting and bringing people together,” said Kittelmann.
And the project, of course, is also a commentary on feminism and sexism, given knitting’s gendered history.
“Crocheting may be feminine, but the message this project conveys will impact everyone,” Kittelmann said.
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