Coral reefs inspired the crochet exhibition “Austrian Satellite Reef,” by Margaret and Christine Wertheim. It is on view at the Schlossmuseum Linz in Austria. Photo Credit: David Payr for The New York Times

EnvironmentSociety USA13. February 2024

Crocheting for Endangered Coral Reefs

When two sisters started to crochet coral reef-inspired pieces in their Los Angeles home almost 20 years ago, they never dreamed it would spring a long-running craft-science collaborative artwork that celebrates the fragile yet essential ecosystem and raises awareness.

The two new colonies of the Crochet Coral Reef project featuring marine morphologies modeled, or rather crocheted, with loopy verisimilitude are located in the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, the United States, and in the Schlossmuseum in Linz, Austria. The latter exhibition holds special symbolism since the region was once occupied by an “ancient primordial sea, filled with corals whose remains can still be found in the basins and Alps of Upper Austria.”

Twin sisters artist and writer Christine Wertheim and science writer Margaret Wertheim started to spin out the mother reef from their Los Angeles living room in 2005. For each exhibition, the sisters provide works that they have crocheted over the years. Then, pieces from selected skilled international contributors are incorporated. One is a bleached reef to evoke coral stressed by increases in ocean temperatures, and the other is a coral forest made from yarn and plastic, referencing the debris-polluting reef systems. The most extensive satellite reef was made at the Museum Frieder Burda in Baden-Baden, Germany 2022, with 40,000 coral pieces from about 4,000 contributors. The Linz satellite reef unites 30,000 pieces from nearly 2,000 contributors this year. To date, close to 25,000 crocheters – or “reefers” – have collectively created more than 50 reefs, exploring mathematical themes in their construction to plead in favour of these rainforests of the sea threatened by climate change.

The New York Times

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