Abu Dhabi Satellite Reef

September 30 – December 6, 2014
New Your University Abu Dhabi Institute, United Arab Emirates

NYU Abu Dhabi Satellite Reef, at the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute, United Arab Emirates.

Photo by Christina Simons for the Institute For Figuring.

In Fall 2014, the Crochet Coral Reef traveled to the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute, part of the recently opened New York University campus in the United Arab Emirates. The Middle East is home to a network of unique reefs as well as an explosion of human development, making the region a fertile place for both the aesthetic pleasures and ecological messages of the Crochet Coral Reef project.

Located in a 4-story space, this unusual Reef exhibition was lit by natural light evoking a vast aquarium. The exhibition also debuted the NYU Abu Dhabi Satellite Reef, an endeavor overseen by NYU community outreach officer Jason Beckerman and ex-pat Australian artist Michal Teague. This stunning addition to the worldwide archipelago of crochet reefs was constructed around a collection of traditional Emirati fishing baskets attached in seven mosque-like mounds, each representing one of the seven federated “emirates,” with Abu Dhabi as their capital. Throughout 2014, members of the NYU Abu Dhabi community gathered to crochet the forms. Participants included NYU-AD faculty and students as well as cafeteria workers, plus a diverse group of native Emiratis and resident ex-patriots. The final reef – a triumph of whimsy and local influence, with a concerted element of bling – shot upward in a collection of exuberant islands.

NYU Abu Dhabi students learn to crochet corals in a workshop by Margaret Wertheim.

Photo © Institute For Figuring.

Making a reef in a nation cited for its often heedless expansion and exploitative guest-worker practices was not a decision we undertook lightly. But after attending a scientific conference on Middle Eastern corals and meeting with local people we decided to go ahead. Locals seemed hungry for projects that crossed socioeconomic and racial lines, and although no art project can heal societal rifts, the reef brought together participants from a diverse cross-section of Emerati society.

The understructure of the NYU Abu Dhabi Satellite Reef was constructed from traditional Emirati fishing baskets by local Reef co-ordinator Michal Teague. The mosque-like peaks at the top are part of the design that helps trap fish, while the complex weaving patterns are a much-prided local craft. Traditionally fashioned out of reeds, now the baskets are made from wire but are still hand-crafted.

Photo by Michal Teague.

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

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

NYU Abu Dhabi Satellite Reef.

Photo © Institute For Figuring.

The arabesque shapes and pointed domes of the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi were an architectural inspiration for the contours of NYU Abu Dhabi Satellite Reef.

Photo © Institute For Figuring.

Wire understructures of the NYU Abu Dhabi Satellite Reef loaded up for transportation to the gallery.

Photo by Michal Teague.