Preview: The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef @ Hayward

By M@ Last edited 127 months ago
Preview: The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef @ Hayward

We all know about the imperilled rainforests, but the world's coral reefs are also disappearing faster than you can say "So long, and thanks for all the fish". Artists Margaret and Christine Wertheim from LA's Institute of Figuring bring this wonder of nature to the Hayward Gallery via the medium of crocheting (a craft a bit like knitting, with looping stitches and a single hooked needle).

The exhibition mixes together handicrafts, mathematics and ecology to produce three rooms-worth of vibrant subnauticalia. The corals often look real and, for some reason, make you want to stroke them. Elsewhere, model jellyfish adorn the walls, and giant chandeliers of yarn hang from the ceiling. Plastics and other household materials are woven in to highlight the dangers of pollution and waste disposal. All that's missing is a woollen David Attenborough.

Wherefore the mathematics, and why is this known as 'hyperbolic' crochet? Turns out that coral grows in a hyperbolic geometry and one of best ways to physically model this unusual conformation is through crochet. For those who can handle the equations, here's a Cornell paper on how to crochet a non-Euclidian space.

Science and art are so rarely brought together in such an imaginative and eyecatching way. If this is crocheting, we're hooked.

The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef is on show at the Hayward Gallery with supplementary coral in the Royal Festival Hall from June 11 to August 17. Entrance is free.

Last Updated 11 June 2008