In 2022, Museum Frieder Burda in Germany presents Margaret and Christine Wertheim: Value and Transformation of Corals, a museum-wide retrospective of the Crochet Coral Reef that turns the building into an immersive wooly environment. 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 surreal alien world. Even the lifts are filled with corals, transforming them into a moving vertical aquarium. Curated by Udo Kittelmann in close association with the artists, the exhibition also introduces the Baden-Baden Satellite Reef created by 4000+ contributors across the German speaking world. An accompanying 240-page catalog book is published in German and English editions by Weinand Verlag.
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 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.
Shown at the 58th Venice Biennale, the Crochet Coral Reef is now the subject of a museum-wide retrospective at Museum Frieder Burda that includes new works created specifically for this exhibition, including a large-scale embroidered Sampler paying homage to the Reef’s most committed contributors and to history of 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.
Exhibition design by Meyer Vogenreitter.
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 4000+ 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’ installed within the gallery and inside the museum’s elevators, turning the latter into an immersive moving aquarium. With individual coral pieces generated by thousands of hands and as many imaginations, these works challenge normative ideas about the artist as singular ‘genius’ adding a new dimension to the field of collaborative fiber art in the tradition of pioneering collective creations such as the Gees Bend’s quilts.
See here for more information, plus a photo gallery of the Baden Baden Satellite Reef. The BBSR curatorial team consisted of Kathrin Dorfner, Martina Schulz, Christina Humpert, Charlotte Reiter, Susan Reiss and Silke Habich, with assistance from the entire team of Museum Frieder Burda’s art workshop and installation crew led by master carpenter Arnd Merkle.
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 Donna Haraway, Kayleigh C. Perkov, Doug Harvey, Heather Davis, Amita Deshpande, Cord Reichelmann, Judith Irrgang, Christine Wertheim, Margaret Wertheim, 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)
Kunstforum International – Pdf
ART magazine – Pdf
German TV Science program, feature story with Ingolf Bauer – Video
Evolve magazine – Pdf
Monopole – Pdf
Exhibition Photo Gallery