In 2022, Museum Frieder Burda in Germany presents Margaret and Christine Wertheim: Wert und Wandel der Korallen (Value and Transformation of Corals), a museum-wide retrospective of the Crochet Coral Reef that turns the entire building into an immersive wooly experience. With a towering Coral Forest made from yarns, plastics and videotape; a wall-sized “painting” and frieze, each comprising 5000 coral pieces – think abstract expressionism meets female craft; and a vast-in-scale community reef composed of 40,000 corals, visitors are enfolded in a complete other world. Even the lifts are filled with corals to become a series of moving vertical aquariums. Curated by Udo Kittelmann in close association with the artists, the exhibition also introduces the Baden-Baden Satellite Reef created by 4000+ contributors. Exhibition design by Meyer Vogenreitter. A 240-page catalog book is published by Weinand Verlag. German edition on sale now at Museum Frieder Burda. English edition coming soon.
About the Exhibition:
Cnidarians are dying. Corals everywhere are being killed by global warming. Refusing to capitulate in the face of loss, sister-artists Margaret Wertheim and Christine Wertheim have fabulated a response using traditional handicraft techniques – their crochet reefs shimmer and swell in colors and shapes inspired by the Great Barrier Reef. Here, art, science, mathematics and community practice are synthesized in work that reflects the possibilities of stitchery and the hidden history of using craft techniques for scientific representation.
Exhibited at the 58th Venice Biennale, the Crochet Coral Reef is now the subject of a museum-wide retrospective at Museum Frieder Burda. Throughout the galleries we encounter a grove of giant Coral Forests made of yarn, videotape and plastic, a Bleached Reef, a Toxic Reef, a collection of miniature coral Pod Worlds, and new sculptures created for this exhibition, including a large-scale embroidered Sampler paying homage to the Reef’s most committed contributors and to domestic female labor.
At once a meditation on climate change and mathematical formations in nature, the project also demonstrates parallels between biological and social evolution. In the process of crocheting corals, each maker becomes part of a comprehensive whole analogous to the individual polyps of living reefs that together grow collective forms, blurring the boundaries between the ‘individual’ and the ‘communal.’ Collaborative, figurative, material, conceptual, artistic, scientific, feminist and playful, the Crochet Coral Reef alerts us to the reality that life on Earth is nothing if not entangled.
Kunstforum International – Pdf
ART magazine – Pdf
German TV Science program, feature story with Ingolf Bauer – Video
Evolve magazine – Pdf
About the Community Reef
Alongside the Wertheim’s reefs, the exhibition debuts the monumental Baden-Baden Satellite Reef transforming the upper gallery into an oceanic paradise. With 40,000 coral pieces by 4,000+ participants across Germany and beyond, this is by far the largest Satellite Reef to date. For the exhibition Margaret and Christine collaborated with a dedicated team of local crafters to synthesize this wooly outpouring into a collection of three-dimensional, topographical coral islands, and a series vast wall-mounted coral paintings and friezes installed inside the gallery and within the museum’s elevators, turning the latter into moving aquaria. With individual coral pieces generated by thousands of hands, then curated by a small team, these works challenge normative ideas about the artist as singular “genius” and add an important element to the field of collaborative fiber art in the tradition of pioneering collective creations such as the Gees Bend’s quilts.
The Baden-Baden curatorial team consists of Kathrin Dorfner, Martina Schulz, Christina Humpert, Charlotte Reiter, Susan Reiss and Silke Habich, with assistance from the entire team of the museum’s art workshop and installation crew, led by master carpenter Arnd Merkle, plus twenty local seamstresses.
Accompanying the show is a 240 page full-color book, published in German and English editions with commissioned essays about the scientific, social, environmental, mathematical, feminist, and community dimensions of the project. Essays by Christine Wertheim, Margaret Wertheim, Donna Haraway, Kayleigh C. Perkov, Doug Harvey, Heather Davis, Amita Deshpande, Cord Reichelmann, Judith Irrgang, and Forward by curator Udo Kittelman. Plus commissioned photos by Rebecca Rickman and Nickolay Kazakov. Book design by Margarethe Hausstatter.
Editors: Udo Kittelman for the Frieder Burda Foundation, and Christine Wertheim and Margaret Wertheim. Published by Weinand Verlag.
ISBN 978-3-86832-688-8 (English edition)
ISBN 978-3-86832-676-5 (German edition)
German books on sale now at Museum Frieder Burda. English edition coming soon.
Exhibition Photo Gallery