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The Hayward, London

Hayward Gallery - Southbank Center
Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX

Exhibition Dates:
June 11 - August 17, 2008

Curated by Margaret and Christine Wertheim

This exhibition is generously sponsored by the Crafts Council, with the additional assistance of the Norton Family Foundation and George Loudon.

Opening Reception: Tuesday June 10, Hayward Gallery.

Crochet Reef Symposium: Friday June 13, 10am-4pm.

The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef exhibition opened at The Hayward Project Space on June 11th, 2008.

The exhibition is the loveliest and most complex incarnation of the project to date and we are delighted to acknowledge all the Contributors whose work collectively makes this such a wondrous show—proof that the whole really can be more than the sum of its parts.

List of Contributors to The Hayward exhibition

Christine Wertheim, Margaret Wertheim, Sarah Simons, Evelyn Hardin, Dr Axt, Helen Bernasconi, Marianne Midelburg, Helle Jorgensen, Barbara Wertheim, Daina Taimina, Heather McCarren, Anitra Menning, Clare O'Callaghan, Shari Porter, Vonda N. McIntyre, Ildiko Szabo, Inga Hamilton, Rebecca Peapples, Sue Von Ohlsen, Nancy Lewis, Kathleen Greco, Aviva Alter, Catherine Chandler, Pate Conaway, Kristine Brandel, Cindy Bennish, Nadia Severns, Arlene Minzter; with Paula Peng, Allie Gerlach, Spring Pace, David Orozco, Karen Frazer, Karen Page, Lynn Latta, Diana Simons, Barbara Robinson, Jill Schrier, Dagmar Frinta, Njoya Angrum, Barbara Van Elsen, Pamela Stiles, Jessica Stapp, Kat Ramsland, Barbara Wakesfield, Amber Reyes, Ranu Mukherjee's class at CCA, Katie Bevan, Rosie Sykes, Refia Sacks, Beverly Griffith, Anita Bruce, and Sien Chu Kerk.

See a complete list of the 100 women of the UK who contributed to the UK Reef on the UK Reef page.

Dr Axt's "Reefer Madness" hanging above the stairs in the entrance to The Hayward.

Highlights of the exhibition include:

  • Dr Axt's wondrous "Reefer Madness", hanging in the entranceway
  • A flock of incredible “bottle tree” forms by New York contributor Nadia Severns
  • Kathleen Greco's luscious pink-plastic Jelly-Yarn "sand"
  • Helle Jorgensen's beautiful hanging plastic-bag-crochet "Rubbish Vortex"
  • Flocks of elegant white spires by Evelyn Hardin
  • Aviva Alter's Chicago Cambrian Reef, showing here for the first time
  • A new incarnation of the Plastic Exploding Inevitable Reef, plus wall mounted plastic beauties by Arlene Mintzer
  • A tiny exquisite plastic-box reef drawing by Alicia Escott
  • A brand new Red Reef, with coral pile by Cindy Bennish and Anitra Menning
  • A brand new Blue and Orange Reef, with sea slugs by Marianne Midelburg
  • The spectacular Beaded Reef, with masterworks by Sue von Ohlsen and Rebecca Peapples (this one has proved a huge crowd pleaser although it is the smallest reef in the exhibition)
  • Inga Hamilton's huge, marvelous wall-mounds and flotilla of plastic jelly fish forms made from recycled packaging materials
  • The Bleached Reef, always a crowd favorite and seen here in an expanded version with new pieces from many of our most beloved Contributors plus a poignant pile of tiny crocheted balls by unknown factory workers in China.
  • A spectacular mound of flourescent corals by Ildiko Szabo, starring in the brand new UK Reef.
  • A grove of blue plastic-bag pilar corals by Clare O'Callaghan, starring in the Toxic Reef.

The Plastic Exploding Inevitable Reef with pink plastic Jelly-Yarn "sand" by Kathleen Greco and white spires crocheted from cotton and stiffened with glue by Evelyn Hardin, plus bottle anemones made from craft-lace by Evelyn and Christine and beaded yarn anemones by Sarah Simons.

The exhibition has received excellent press, including features in The Guardian, The Times, New Scientist and Craft Magazine.

Nadia Severn's Bottle Tree Garden - made from plastic water bottles (including Perrier and Dasani) encrusted with hyperbolic crochet corals. With this exhibition we welcome to the Reef Project several new UK Contributors whose works were incorporated into The Hayward show in situ: Katy Bevan (of the UK Craft Council), Anita Bruce (a fiber artist who has just completed her BFA and makes the most incredible crochet sea creatures from scientific wire), Rosy Sykes (a master of the anemone form), Refia Sacks (who crocheted tiny hyberbolic corals from silver jeweler's wire), and Beverly Griffith (another anemone innovator who works equally fluidly in yarn and plastic).

The brand new Red Reef with a large coral pile by Cindy Bennish and Anitra Menning. At right is a pilar coral cluster by Christine Wertheim and at left a grove of coral spires by Evelyn Hardin. Each itteration of the Crochet Reef exhibition demands significant re-curation. In this case curators Margaret and Christine completely reworked the various sub-reefs of what we have previously called the Ladies Silurian Reef. This time round we clustered it into a Red Reef, a Green and Purple Reef, an Orange and White and Blue Reef, and an Orange and Black Reef (which features a grove of large anemones with video tape tentacles.)

The main gallery room at The Hayward exhibition. In the foreground is the Red Reef. Behind is the Rubbish Vortex, crocheted from used plastic shopping bags by Australian Contributor Helle Jorgensen. The IFF commissioned this work from Helle in late 2006 and we are delighted to be able to exhibit its final, stunning, realization here. At its base the Vortex appears to be growing out of the floor from a network of coral-colored roots or arteries. Its shadow on the back wall eerily evokes a mushroom cloud - an unintended reminder of the devastation of Bikini Atoll and a nice resonance with the IFF's Toxic Reef on exhibition in the adjacent space in Royal Festival Hall.

The Red Reef, with sea slugs by Marianne Midelburg at left and a large branched anemone form by Christine Wertheim and tall white spires by Evelyn Hardin. Glimpsed in the background is the Orange and Blue Reef with a grove of pale pink pilar corals by Heather McCarren.

In the main gallery is also a marvelous collection of what we have come to call "Chicago Cambrian" forms by fiber artist Aviva Alter. After coming to an IFF workshop in the Windy City (where we taught her to crochet), Aviva set off on her own evolutionary path and quickly developed a whole new genera of crochet reef organisms. These chimeric, hybrid, morphing constructions call to mind the seminal period in the history of life on earth known as the Cambrian Explosion, around 500 million years ago. Aviva is now working with a small group of fellow Chicagoans (Jessica Stapp, Kat Ramsland, Barbara Wakesfield, Amber Reyes, Catherine Chandler), to expand her techniques and bring into being a new Chicago Cambrian Reef.

The Bleached Reef, Margaret's curatorial triumph. In The Hayward, the Bleached Reef and Beaded Reef are exhibited in a small separate room just beyond the main gallery. Darkened and lit with small spot lights this chapel-like space has been dubbed the Beautiful Holy Jewel Grotto. Fine perspex cases lend these exhibits the immediate feel of being in an aquarium, while watery reflections bouncing off the surface add to this illusion. In the background are two exquisite octopus forms by UK Contributor Anita Bruce. Next to the wall text is a delicate piece of fire coral by Helle Jorgensen. Features of the Bleached Reef include a gorgeous white and red sea slug by Marianne Midelburg, piles of rubble coral by Margaret and Christine, a wondrous rock-coral pile by Nancy Lewis, Heather McCarren's set of tiny orange pseudospheres, Sarah Simons beaded welk egg cases, Helle's coral pieces and sea urchins and sea cucumbers, and at front a pile of crochet balls by unknown Chinese factory workers.

The Beaded Reef, with masterworks by Sue Von Ohlsen and Rebecca Peapples. This exquisite reef is composed from beaded hyperbolic pieces by Sue and Rebecca, both master beaders who realized, after reading the IFF's book about hyperbolic crochet, that they could make these forms using traditional beading techniques. Sue uses peyote stitch to make stunning psuedospheres in graduated metalic beads - the large bluish and greenish forms are hers. Rebecca works with herringbone stitch to make tiny, impossibly delicate forms that look as if they have come from the imagination of a Byzantine queen. The orange florets are hers - these are actually psuedospheres with long trailing tails. This photo does not do justice to all this improbable beauty and we hope to present much better images soon.

Lacework octopii by Anita Bruce, crocheted from fine wire (at left) and fine string (at right).

In addition to the works in the The Hayward Project Space, the IFF's plastic extravaganza the Toxic Reef is also exhibited in an adjacent building of the Southbank Centre in the foyer of Royal Festival Hall. This time the Toxic Reef has been configured in a giant ziggurat formation that calls to mind the ecstatic frenzy of a voodoo alter.

Alongside the Toxic Reef is the brand new UK Reef, constructed by the citizens of the UK over the past 4 months. More than 100 Engish and Irish women and a few men have contributed to this work under the able guidance of Cathy Woolley for the Southbank Center and Katy Bevan for The Crafts Council.

The UK Reef, seen in the foyer of Royal Festival Hall.

The UK Reef, seen above, is unique in its structure, for in this instance all the crochet pieces are attached to giant "reef balls" that simulate the actual concrete reef balls used to help regenerate devastated reefs. This marvelous innovation was dreamed up by Cathy Woolley, who worked with local London sculptors to realize the vision.

The UK Reef, detail. Above is the largest reef-ball partially covered in crochet plastic corals. On top are a collection of anemone forms made by Lucinda Ganderton, Beverly Griffiths and Rosy Sykes. The orange color comes from plastic shopping bags from Sainsbury's and Okada (a grocery shopping delivery service in the UK); the lime green comes from Marks and Spencers bags. Much of the lime green here is made by Liverpool Contributor Ildiko Szabo. Over the course of the exhibition, more participants will continue to add new forms to these balls, so that hopefully by the end of the show this structure will be entirely covered, in an organic process that mimics the regeneration of corals on actual reef-balls.

The UK Reef, detail. Here is a close-up of one of the smaller reef-ball structures covered with amazing flouro corals by Ildiko. Ildiko is one of the IFF's very first reef contributors and one of the most inventive form-makers. Here we see a grove of her anemones, with feather-boa fringing.

The Toxic Reef, with white pilars by Evelyn Hardin, saran-wrap anemones by Pate Conaway, giant orange corals by Christine Wertheim, pink curlicue patch by Ildiko Szabo, orange nets by Margaret and Christine, blue plastic pilars by Clare O'Callaghan, and giant pink coral by Daina Taimina (this form was lent for the opening of the exhibition only and is not a part of the longer-term installation).

The Toxic Reef, details. At left, blue plastic anemones by Clare O'callaghan - made from New York Times plastic bags embellished with ring-pull tops and plastic drinking straws. Clare has made an entire art out of recycling New York Times wrappers, a specificity which proves that no ecological niche in the crochet-hyperbolic-universe is too tiny to produce giganticly wondrous results. At right, a grove of white plastic-bag pilars by Margaret Wertheim, with plastic-bag coral form by Daina Taimina and her daughter, blue plastic pilars by Clare and orange+blue yarn corals by Shari Porter.


Left: Closeup of Ildiko Szabo's anemone patch in The Toxic Reef, with Jelly-Yarn coral by Kathleen Greco. Right: Giant orange corals by Christine Wertheim with pilar coral by Kristine Brandel.

The UK Reef in progress (featuring candy striped anemone and corals by Ildiko Szabo) - Photo by George Walker

During Summer 2008 - in this International Year of the Reef - the Crochet Coral Reef will be showing in London at the Hayward Gallery. The exhibition will include an expanded version of the Bleached Reef, a new configuration of the Ladies Silurian Reef, the beautifully archaic Branched Anemone Garden, and the ever-growing Toxic Reef. On show for the first time will be the wondrously surreal Chicago Cambrian Reef (curated by IFF contributor Aviva Alter), plus a new formation of the Beaded Reef by master beaders Rebecca Peapples and Sue Von Ohlsen. The exhibition will also debut several new plastic installations: The Exploding Plastic Inevitable Reef (with hot-pink sand by Kathleen Greco), and the Bottle Tree Grove (featuring works by Christine Wertheim, Evelyn Hardin and Nadia Severns). Hanging elements in the show will include the all-plastic-bag Rubbish Vortex by Australian contributor Helle Jorgensen, a flotilla of jellyfish by Irish crafter Inga Hamilton, and Dr Axt's psychedelic coral-cloud "Reefer Madness."

In addition to the IFF reefs, the exhibition will also debut the amazing new UK Reef, currently being constructed by crafters across the UK (with contributions from Ireland, and even Australia - hey its a former colony).

On Friday June 13 the Southbank center will host an all-day symposium inspired by the Crochet Reef Project. Speakers will include crochet reef creators Margaret and Christine Wertheim; mathematician Dr Daina Taimina, inventor of hyperbolic crochet; radical UK crafters, environmentalists, and coral reef biologists.

The UK Reef in progress - Photo by George Walker

We are honored with this show to have the generous support of the UK Crafts Council, who have spearheaded the production of a UK Reef, which will be exhibited alongside the IFF Reefs at the Hayward Gallery and Southbank Center. In March 2008, IFF Director Margaret Wertheim travelled to London to hold workshops and get London crafters started. Some 40 artisans attended, and even in the space of that first weekend it was clear the UK Reef was going to be a uniquely complex construction. This is the third local spawn from the IFF core reef, following similar initiatives in Chicago and New York, and we are already certain (given the photos above) that the collected talents of Bristish crafters are going to produce something very special indeed.

The UK Reef is being managed for the Crafts Council by Katy Bevan, and for the Hayward Gallery by Becca Connock and Cathy Woolley. We welcome all those who would like to participate in this collective endeavour. If you live in the UK (or would like to think you do, or just feel like pretending you are British for a bit) and would like to participate in the UK Reef, please send email to:

More information about the Crafts Council may be seen at their website:

See here for the latest issue of Crafts magazine with a lovely article about the Crochet Reef Project:

The Hayward Gallery exhibition team at the Isle of Dogs, digging up plastic bags under the guidance of Thames21 director Chris Coode. Photo by Cathy Woolley

One of the core goals of the IFF Crochet Reef project is to draw attention to the tsunami of plastic trash that is flooding into our oceans. From the beginning, the Hayward team have embraced this goal and sought to bring it into prominence within the exhibition. We are delighted to have the partnership here of the environmental organization Thames21, whose mission is to help clean up the banks of the Thames, which (along with river-ways everywhere) is being inundated with trash. In March, Thames21 director Chris Coode escorted the exhibition team on a mile-long expedition along the Thames bank to collect plastic bags. The bags were cleaned and brought to the Hyperbolic Crochet workshop at the Southbank Center on the weekend of March 16/17. Thames21 has agreed to provide a supply of genuine grubbed-up-from-the-Thames plastic bags for production of UK Reef forms. We are delighted to announce that while not everyone is willing to crochet used plastic bags, a number of the workshop participants embraced the idea. Indeed, several had come with their own plastic bags, including bright orange Sainsbury's and Okada bags, which happen to be the exact colour featured in the Toxic Reef. We are especially eager to have UK Reef contributions in plastic, and we encourage all participants to think about using their own plastic discards in their reef forms.

More information about Thames21 and their clean-up work can be seen at the organization's website:

More information about The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

More information about crocheting plastic trash.

Chris Coode from Thames21 digging up plastic bags embedded in the banks of the Thames at the Isle of Dogs (March 2008). Photo by Cathy Woolley

The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef exhibition at the Hayward Gallery is generously supported by the Crafts Council, with additional assistance from the Norton Family Foundation and George Loudon.

The Crochet Reef has been produced with support from the Annenberg Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Norton Family Foundation, and Daniel and Joanna Rose Foundation.

Special thanks to Ralph Rugoff and Clare West.


The Art And Craft of Saving The World

Symposium, Friday 13 June 2008, 10am-3pm

Southbank Center
(Front Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall)
Belvedere Road, London SE1-8XX

In association with the Crochet Reef exhibition at the Hayward Gallery and Royal Festival Hall, the Southbank Center is hosting a day-long symposium bringing together scientists, crafters and environmentalists.

This seminar is generously supported by a grant from the Crafts Council.

Ladies Silurian Reef - Orange Section (detail). Photo by Alyssa Gorelick

Join leading international craft specialists and environmental experts for a day of discussions and workshops exploring the relationships between craft and climate change, science and mathematics, inspired by the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef exhibition at The Hayward (11 June - 17 August 2008).

  • Introduction by Jude Kelly, artistic director Southbank Centre.
  • Keynote address by Margaret and Christine Wertheim of the Institute For Figuring.
  • Panel discussion chaired by artist and curator Janis Jefferies and Dr. Marcus du Sautoy, one of the UK's leading scientists and celebrated mathematical author.
  • Further speakers include: world-renowned underwater sculptor Jason de Caires Taylor; Rosy Greenlees, Crafts Council; Clare Twomby of Cape Farewell and Eden Project; Rachael Matthews of Cast Off; Inga Hamilton, fibre artist; Dr. Mark Miodownik, founder of the Materials Library; Bridget Nichols ecology writer and director of Pestival; and New York based mathematician Dr. Daina Taimina.

Tickets £20 Concessions: £10

To book tickets please call (UK) 0871 663 2598 Monday to Friday 9.30am-5.30pm

Full Symposium Schedule

10.00 Jude Kelly: welcome to the Southbank Centre and introduction to symposium chairs.

10.10 Janis Jefferies and Marcus du Sautoy: opening remarks

10.20 Rosy Greenlees: welcome from the Craft Council, introduction to the Institute For Figuring and the Crochet Reef Project

10.30 Margaret and Christine Wertheim, co-directors of the Institute For Figuring, will give a Keynote address about the history and evolution of the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef, exploring the project's interweaving strands of mathematics, marine biology, ecological activism, feminine handicraft and collective feminist practice.

11.15 Panel discussion chaired by Janis Jefferies and Dr. Marcus Du Sautoy

Discussion points

  • Does art and craft have to a role to play in the fight against climate change and public understanding of science?
  • How have scientists' theories and research on climate change influenced the work of contemporary artists and crafts people?
  • What future potential is there to develop relationships between scienctific research and contemporary art and craft

Panel members

  • Dr. Daina Taimina - Mathematician, Cornell University, and inventor of hyperbolic crochet
  • Bridget Nichols - Arts and Ecology Advisor to London Zoological Society
  • Clare Twomby - Cape Farewell applied artist in residence at Eden Project
  • Margaret Wertheim - Science writer and IFF Director
    Dr. Christine Wertheim - Professor of Critical Studies, California Institute for the Arts, and IFF Co-Director
  • Jason Taylor - Artificial Reef Sculptor
    Dr. Mark Miodownik - Founder of the Materials Library

Question and Answers from audience

12.00 – 1230 Dr. Daina Taimina and Inga Hamilton
Hyperbolic table challenges - activities combining mathematics and handiwork construction.
(audience encouraged to continue through lunch)

12.30 - 13.15 Lunch

Daina Taimina and Inga Hamilton update (tables to show what they have made/achieved)

13.15 – 13.45 Discussion with Rachel Matthews and Dr. Mark Miodownik

13.45 - 14.15 Discussion with Jason deCaires Taylor & coral reef expert

14.15- 14.30 Coral Reef table challenges led by CoralCay and Inga Hamilton

14.30 – 15.00 Conclusion from Chair and Q & A to afternoon speakers

15.00 - 17.00 Viewing the Crochet Reef exhibitions at the Hayward Gallery and Royal Festival Hall

Hyperbolic Coral Crochet Reef is a Southbank Centre exhibition in partnership with The Crafts Council