Toxic Seas

Creating sea life via crochet

The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) presents Crochet Coral Reef: TOXIC SEAS, on view from September 15, 2016, through January 22, 2017. The exhibit is part of MAD Transformations showcasing artists who have reshaped perceptions of traditional craft media. Crochet Coral Reef: TOXIC SEAS celebrates the 10th anniversary of the "Crochet Coral Reef," an ongoing project by Margaret and Christine Wertheim and their Los Angeles–based organization, the Institute For Figuring (IFF), that addresses environmental threats to marine life through handcrafted artificial ecology.

The IFF was founded in 2003 by science writer and curator Margaret Wertheim and her twin sister, poet and writer Christine Wertheim, to employ craft practice in the service of activism. In 2005, in response to the devastation of the Great Barrier Reef in their native Australia, the Wertheim sisters began to crochet a simulation of healthy and ailing reefs mixing yarn with plastic trash.

Curated for MAD by Assistant Curator Samantha De Tillio, Crochet Coral Reef: TOXIC SEAS offers a unique presentation of the project that focuses on climate change and ocean health. "Crochet Coral Reef: TOXIC SEAS is a community-centered project that builds on the feminist tradition of using craft in the service of activism. Fiber, particularly knitting and crocheting, is often central to this practice because of its traditionally gendered affiliation with 'woman's work,'" said De Tillio. "Here, a group comprised primarily of women addresses the startling transformation of the oceans during the Anthropocene era through the WERTHEIMS union of science, math, and art, giving voice to the ongoing environmental concerns of climate change and plastic trash in the oceans that haunt our coral reefs."

This exhibit focuses on three main "habitats": A giant Coral Forest and a collection of miniature Pod Worlds display the diversity of living corals through the varying textures, colors, and forms of crocheted yarn and beads. The Bleached Reef and a brand-new Toxic Reef serve as invocations of dying corals. Acidification and warming of ocean waters lead to a phenomenon known as reef "bleaching."The Midden, suspended from the Museum's ceiling in a fishing net, considers the impact of plastic waste on ocean ecosystems. From 2007 to 2011, the Wertheim sisters collected all of their domestic plastic trash, including bottles, takeout containers, and disposable shopping bags. They were inspired by the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a vast area located in the northern Pacific Ocean near Hawaii, where millions of tons of plastic trash accumulate in a giant ocean gyre. As a uniquely personal record of two people's trash.

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*Press materials edited by Rebeca Schiller




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