Conceived by Margaret and Christine Wertheim and their Los Angeles–based organization, the Institute For Figuring, Crochet Coral Reef is an 11-year-old endeavor that brings together an array of handcrafted reefs made by artisans around the globe. The project began in 2005 when the Wertheim sisters started using a mixture of plastic waste and yarn to crochet coral forms in response to the devastation of the Great Barrier Reef in their native Australia. Crochet Coral Reef: TOXIC SEAS, curated by Samantha De Tillio for the Musuem of Arts and Design, is a celebration of the woven artpieces created and collected by the Wertheim sisters over the past 11 years.
“When Christine and I started the project a decade ago, we joked that if the Great Barrier Reef ever died out, our crochet reef would be something to remember it by,” said Margaret Wertheim. “Now scientists are saying this might really happen, so the project is racing against time. Time is at the heart of our practice: it takes huge amounts of time to crochet these works, just as it takes huge amounts of time for coral polyps to grow actual reefs. It’s a slow process that can’t be automated or mechanically reproduced. Living reefs, with their immense taxonomic diversity, have evolved over vast stretches of time, and so too the diverse ecology of our crochet reefs results from an ongoing evolutionary process in which our community of contributors continually expands and builds on what’s come before.”
Though beautiful in their own way, the Bleached Reef and the Toxic Reef point out the dire problem of dying and bleached corals due to climate change and ocean acidification.
Another portion of the exhibit uses glittering litter to represent how plastic trash is polluting the ocean floor.
The exhibition also explores another problem plaguing our oceans: plastic waste. Filled with plastic trash saved by the Wertheim sisters from 2007-2011, “The Midden” is a powerful sculptural intervention that spills down from the museum’s ceiling. The piece calls attention to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a sprawling accumulation of millions of tons of plastic garbage in the northern Pacific Ocean near Hawaii. Considering that the overwhelming amount of waste shown here was generated by just two people in four years, one can only imagine the magnitude of trash created by the world’s population.
Crochet Coral Reef: TOXIC SEAS will be on view at the MAD Museum through January 22, 2017.