Radical Fibers: Threads Connecting Art and Science

Jan 29 - June 12, 2022
Tang Teaching Museum, Saratoga Springs, NY
Crochet Coral Reef at Tang Museum

Saratoga Springs Satellite Reef at Tang Teaching Museum.

Photo © Institute For Figuring

From Jan-June 2022, the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College presents Radical Fiber: Threads Connecting Art and Science, an exhibition exploring unexpected and under-explored interweavings between the fiber arts and the domains of science and mathematics. A centerpiece of the show is the Saratoga Springs Satellite Reef, made by 200+ crafters across NY state and beyond. Crochet Coral Reef creators Christine and Margaret Wertheim hail this vital, enchanting, entangling of art, craft, and STEM.

As Tang curators write of their show: Humans first developed string—drawn and twisted plant or animal fiber—more than 120,000 years ago. Since then, we have learned to knot, weave, knit, crochet, and stitch, developing societies that fish, hunt, build shelter, wear clothing, carry objects large and small, and complete all manner of tasks thanks to the technology of strings. These world-changing innovations have become so embedded in our everyday lives that we hardly recognize them—yet fiber as a material and its associated techniques continue to catalyze advancements across fields as diverse as digital technology, mathematics, neuroscience, chemistry, and many others.

Radical Fiber: Threads Connecting Art and Science presents historical objects and contemporary art, including mathematical models, research-driven visual artwork, patented innovations, and more, by makers such as artists, mathematicians, psychologists, hobby crafters, chemists, designers, and researchers. Loosely organized into stories about community, shape, machine, body, and, brain, their work complicates established categories: each can be understood simultaneously as fine art, process-driven craft, and scientific tool. Radical Fiber demonstrates they value of cross-disciplinary and collaborative thinking, emphasizing how artists change the way we experience and think about the world.”

Crochet Coral Reef at Tang Museum with reflections in glass

Installation view, Saratoga Springs Satellite Reef.

Photo © Institute For Figuring

Participating Artists: Lia Cook, Brock Craft, Veronica Dry, Anna Dumitriu, Ellis Developments, Imperial Chemical Industries, Hanne Kekkonen, Kintra Fibers, Elaine Krajenke Ellison, Karen Norberg, William Henry Perkin, Helen Remick, Dario Robleto, Daniela Rosner, Elden Seropian, Samantha Shorey, John Sims, Soft Monitor, Daina Taimina, Unidentified artist, Unidentified Incan artist, Cecilia Vicuña, Christine Wertheim, Margaret Wertheim, Carolyn Yackel.

List of Contributors to Saratoga Springs Satelllite Reef. [ADD link to PDF]

Exhibition catalog coming in 2023.

Large white Crochet Coral island

Installation view of the Saratoga Springs Satellite Reef, bleached island. With Core Memory Quilt, Wall of Knots, and other exhibition artworks.

Photo © Institute For Figuring
crochet sea fan made of wire

Saratoga Springs Satellite Reef details: Crocheted wire sea fan, plus orange headed anemone with plastic-bag corals.

crochet corals and sea anemone
Photos © Institute For Figuring

Exhibition Programming Events:
Jan 28-29, 2022: Radical Fiber: A Symposium on Art and Science, via Zoom.
Day 1: Curator’s Tour; Threads Throughout History; Making Vision – Math, Craft, Culture
Day 2: Curator’s Tour, Textiles, Technology, and Social Good; The Future of Textiles and Sustainability.
See here to watch videos of the symposium.

March 30, 2022: Dunkerley Dialogue with Margaret Wertheim and Amy Frappier, 6pm live at the Tang and via Zoom.

About the speakers:
Margaret Wertheim is science writer and artist whose work focuses on relations between science and the wider cultural landscape. The author of six books, including a trilogy about the history of physics, her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Guardian, Cabinet, and Aeon. With her sister Christine, she co-founded the Institute For Figuring, a Los Angeles-based practice devoted to the aesthetic dimensions of science. The sisters’ Crochet Coral Reef has been exhibited at the 2019 Venice Biennale, Helsinki Biennial 2021, Museum Frieder Burda (Germany, 2022) and other international venues. Margaret’s reef TED Talk has been viewed over 1.5 million times.

Amy Frappier is a paleoclimatologist and Associate Professor in the Geosciences Department at Skidmore College. Amy studies past climate changes and extreme weather including hurricanes, droughts, and floods by developing new tools to measure evidence in stalagmites from Yucatán Peninsula caves. With her spouse and research partner, she established a state-of-the-art National Science Foundation-funded stable isotope laboratory and mentors students in climate research. Amy was featured on the BBC/NOVA program Killer Hurricanes.

For a full calendar of events throughout the making of the Satellite Reef and exhibition see here.

detail of white crocheted corals

Saratoga Springs Satellite Reef details: bleached white corals, and red “tube anemones”.

tall thin red crocheted anemones in gallery
Photos © Institute For Figuring

Saratoga Springs Satellite Reef announcement card

Image © Tang Teaching Museum
Island of white crochet corals win museum with reflections in glass

Installation view, of white island from the Saratoga Springs Satellite Reef.

Photo © Institute For Figuring
vinyl lettering on gallery wall by Donna Haraway

Exhibition wall text with quote by Donna Haraway.

Photo © Institute For Figuring
Core Memory Quilt artwork at Tang Museum

Core Memory Quilt at Tang Teaching Museum Radical Fiber exhibition. This artwork emulating a traditional quilt is made from vintage “core memory” boards from old mainframe computers, and crafted cardboard-and-yarn facsimiles. Pushing on the facsimiles activates an electrical circuit to play a short clip of oral history about the making of core memory for the NASA Apollo missions. [[Add names of the artists here.]]

Photo © Institute For Figuring