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New York University Abu Dhabi Institute, UAE

Exhibition dates: September 30 – December 6, 2014

A view of the immersive Coral Forest, with its playfully perched plastic and videotape sculptures. Photo © Institute For Figuring (by Christina Simons).

In Fall 2014, the IFF's Crochet Coral Reef traveled to the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute in the United Arab Emirates. The Middle East is home to a network of unique coral reefs, as well as to an explosion of human-made development, thus making the region a fertile place for both the aesthetic pleasures and the ecological consciousness-raising of the CCR project.

Two years in the making, this new incarnation of the exhibition centered around our Coral Forest, a collection of large-scale ‘snakey-armed sculptures’ crocheted from yarn and plastic threads, including videotape, used shopping bags and tinsel. Also in the show was an expanded collection of our miniature coral Pod Worlds, each a tiny fantastical landscape featuring works by some of the IFF’s most skilled Reef crafters. Contrasting the humongous and the delicate, the trashy and the sublime, the exhibition invited viewers into an environment that celebrated the sea while asking them to ponder its fragility in the face of potentially overwhelming human activity.

Located in the gigantic atrium of one of NYU's buildings on its Sadiyatt Island campus, the exhibition treated visitors to a unique installation lit by natural light through massive four-story windows, beautifully evoking a vast aquarium. Visitors had the opportunity to not only experience the large-scale works in the round but also with a bird's-eye view from a walkway two stories above. Because of the show's placement in a central campus hub, students, faculty, and staff got to know the sculptures intimately throughout the Fall semester.  

The Coral Forest at the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute, lit by the Middle Eastern sun. Photo © Institute For Figuring (by Christina Simons)


Institute For Figuring Core Reef Crafters included
in the exhibition

Featured in the show are works by IFF Core Reef Crafters: Christine Wertheim (Australia/CA), Margaret Wertheim (Australia/CA), Anna Mayer (CA), Sarah Simons (CA), Evelyn Hardin (TX), Helen Bernasconi (Australia), Marianne Midelburg (Australia), Barbara Wertheim (Australia), Helle Jorgensen (Australia), Ildiko Szabo (England), Heather McCarren (CA), Dr. Axt (VT), Nancy Lewis (VT), Anitra Menning (CA), Shari Porter (CA), Vonda N. McIntyre (WA), Sue Von Ohlsen (PA), Rebecca Peapples (MI), Clare O’Callaghan (CA), Eleanor Kent (CA), Kathleen Greco (PA), Nadia Severns (NY), Arlene Mintzer (NY), Jill Schrier (NY), Pamela Stiles (NY), Siew Chu Kerk (NY), Anita Bruce (UK), Mieko Fukuhara (Japan), Irene Lundgaard and Orla Breslin (Ireland), Christina Simons (LA), Jemima Wyman (LA). With: Ann Wertheim, Elizabeth Wertheim, Katherine Wertheim, Sally Giles, Pate Conaway, David Orozco, Diana Simons, Lucinda Ganderton, Beverly Griffiths, Jane Canby, Jennifer White, Sharon Menges, Tane Clark, Nancy Youros, Gunta Jekabsone, Gina Cacciolo, Chantal Horeau, Ying Wong, and unknown Chinese factory workers.

A visitor to the Crochet Coral Reef exhibition at the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute reads about the project in bi-lingual Arabic and English signage. Photo © Institute For Figuring.

The exhibition also debuted the NYU Abu Dhabi Satellite Reef. This stunning addition to the worldwide archipelago of crochet reefs was constructed around a collection of traditional Emirati fishing baskets, attached together in seven mosque-like mounds, each representing one of the seven federated emirates. Throughout 2014, members of the NYU Abu Dhabi community gathered in workshops to make the forms. Participants included NYU AD faculty, students, and cafeteria workers, plus a diverse group of native Emiraties and resident ex-patriots. The final reef – a triumph of whimsy and local influence, with a wondrous element of bling – hovered low to the ground and shooted joyously upward in a collection of exuberantly composed islands.

The NYU Abu Dhabi Satellite Reef was organized for the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute by Jason Beckerman, Pam Mandich, and Michal Teague.

The NYU Abu Dhabi Satellite Reef. Photo courtesy of the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute.


Full list of NYU Abu Dhabi Satellite Reef Participants

Asma Al-Ameri, Virgie Abarra, Sandra Abo El Nour, Gary Adnams, Janice Adnams, Matthew Adnams, Nabila S. Ahmed, Heather Baba, Toka Baxter, Luise Beaumont, Jason Beckerman, Ratnayake Mudiyanselage Chandrawathie, Helene Demirci, Karim Devries, Justiina Devries, Isabelle Gobert, Melanie Gobert, Stefanie Goebel, Tara Gurung, Faiza Hashim, Rebecca Lavallée, Jill Magi, Pam Mandich, Kay Miller, David Moore, Suha Mulqi, Debbie Ross, Nada Salem, Wafaa Salem, Tiina Salo-Devries, Sabine Storch, Beth Smith, Darcy Teague-Moore, Michal Teague, Leena Uusitalo, Zahara Velji, Sulaiman Waheeduddin, Usman Waheeduddin, Laura Waldusky, Linda Williams, Manuela Zarifeh

Accompanying the exhibition was thoughtful programming that included two wide-ranging panel discussions: 'Radical Craft' – about the new ‘radical craft’ movement, and how crochet can open unexpected paths to imagining and being in the world, (with Crochet Coral Reef co-creator Christine Wertheim and internationally acclaimed fiber artists Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam and Shauna Richardson) – plus 'Reefs, Rubbish, and Reason' (which featured IFF Director Margaret Wertheim, along with cultural critic Lawrence Weschler and coral scientist John Burt), to discuss how science and art can work together to enhance our ecological consciousness.

NYU Abu Dhabi Satellite Reef participants on the night of the exhibition's opening. Photo courtesy, NYU Abu Dhabi Institute.

Visitors to the NYU Abu Dhabi exhibition were welcomed by a bi-lingual Arabic and English title wall, whose curving shape echoed the aquarium-like space of the building's glass-walled atrium. Photo courtesy of the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute.

Students at NYU Abu Dhabi learning hyperbolic crochet in a class with IFF director Margaret Wertheim. Photo © Institute For Figuring.

Understructure of the NYU Abu Dhabi Satellite Reef constructed from traditional Emirati fishing baskets by Michal Teague. The mosque-like peaks at the tops of the baskets are part of the ingenious design of the nets that help to trap fish; while the complex weaving patterns of the forms are a much-prided unique local craft. Traditionally the baskets were fashioned out of reeds, today they are made from wire, but these intricate topographies are still crafted by hand. Photo courtesy of Michal Teague.

Understructure of the NYU Abu Dhabi Satellite Reef in transit to the gallery. Photo courtesy of Michal Teague.