Friday, June 15, 2012

The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef - The Föhr Reef, contd.

Last week I have written about my experiences when starting to search for the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef: The Föhr Reef  in the Föhr Museum of Art of the Western Coast during our holidays on the island. 
What I described in that first post was the status quo of Tuesday last week, when I had been to the museum and sort of acquiesced to the fact that our timing had been bad, that I was not able to participate actively in the project, and that I would not even get to see it finished. Though my husband did jokingly suggest that he and my son take the train home as planned, and I could stay a day longer to go to the opening of the show – but I knew that was a teaser, not a real or serious offer.
But on Thursday morning I met one of the women who had been at the ticket desk when I visited the museum, and we started chatting. I told her about my fascination with what fragments I had seen, and my woes of not getting to see the finished reef ‘for real’. She started praising how wonderful it looked now, just a couple of days later, when the parts had been completely assembled and the American segments had also been installed, how the excitement amongst the museum employees was rising, and that one of the initiators, Margaret Wertheim had already flown in. 
Then she told me that there would be a press conference on Friday afternoon. Perhaps I would want to try to sneak in on that? But she could not play an active part in getting me in as she would be helping out in the kitchen that day.
That’s when my heart started racing. Every once in a while I do free-lance work for our local newspaper – so in a way I am legible to be present at a press conference like that. The only problem is that I don’t hold a press identification card. Would they accept my word?
I tried to call the newsroom at home - it  was a holiday in Bavaria, nobody was working or would answer the phone. I sent an e-mail, explaining the whole situation, and asking whether they could call the museum and sign me up for the press conference. They called me back Friday morning, while my son and I were on a boat trip to the seal resting places on sandbanks off the island, saying it had all been arranged, I was being expected.

Seals resting on sandbanks during low tide in the Wadden Sea

Right after we returned from the trip to the seals, my husband took over my son, I jumped on our rental bike and headed for the museum, inbetween heavy duty rain showers. 

A wonderful ride that was and I remember thinking to myself when I got off the bike “That was sooo nice, riding here with that gorgeous light, and in anticipation of getting to see the reef!”
The museum's outside wall was now covered with the new poster announcing the exhibition.

I went into the museum, approached the font desk in a surprisingly empty room and was greeted with “how may I help you?” I introduced myself and said that I had come for the press conference and that I had been signed up by telephone only this morning. He looked at me sternly and said: “The press conference was at twelve and everything is closed off now because they are interviewing and filming. The official opening is tomorrow, you can come back then.”
Do I need to describe my feeling of disappointment? I pleaded – no, absolutely no chance to go in, the TV people did not want anybody disturbing them. I insisted – and again, and finally he conceded that he would talk to the project director when she reappeared from being interviewed. But he did not promise me anything, nor could he tell me how long I might have to wait, it might be up to two hours.
I sat down in the museum café and ordered a cup of tea. After forty minutes Ms. Heims appeared, and after more disguised pleading on my side finally agreed to give me a quick short tour of the exhibition half an hour later.
More tea, and then an interesting looking and English speaking woman appeared in the restaurant, I heard her talking to the waitress and could help out with a few translations. And then I realized who this must be and approached Margared Wertheim. 

Margaret Wertheim,
photo taken from the internet

She was very open and kindly talked to me for quite a while, telling me a lot about the whole project.
Margaret Wertheim is a physicist in training but decided to go into science journalism after finishing her first degree, instead of continuing a career in academic science. Her journalistic life has been dedicated to making the frequently difficult topics of science understandable and accessible for non-scientifically oriented people. Which was the driving force behind her foundation of the Institute for Figuring, and which was also how she came across Daina Taimina's hyperbolic crochet patterns. This was at the same time when a lot of concern was being voiced about the threats to the environment due to pollution, and about the impending mass destruction of coral reefs due to global warming. Together with her sister and a few friends “in our living room” they started making a hyperbolic crochet coral reef to raise the public’s awareness about the dangers to coral reefs, and put a note about it on their internet site. “Within a few weeks of publication of this notice, when not a whole lot had been finished yet, we received a call from the Andy Wharhol museum that they were putting together a show on artists’ responses to global warming, and would we be able to make a contribution to this show. That’s when it took off,” Margaret recalled. “We had to finish something then, and this Föhr Reef now is about the twelfth exhibition in a museum we have had.”
She is rather disappointed that the scientific world has not responded to the project at all, neither in recognition nor in funding. Instead, she has received comments such as “It’s just a bunch of women knitting.” However, the response of the art world has been overwhelming, and she hopes that a publisher will be found in the near future so that a book can be published that covers all the various aspects that are combined in the project.
And then I did get to see the complete Föhr Reef, guided by the project director of the museum, Ms. Heims. She explained the history of the project in detail, and told me about the new feelings of community that the participating women had developed, who now want to continue their regular meetings even though the reef as such is finished. And I was allowed to take “official photos” – although my little camera was far from up to this occasion, and these photos do not nearly communicate the overall effect when one stands in the room and gets to look at the various pieces of the exhibition.
There are a few segments of the American reef, including a segment that shows “dead corals”, with crochet lace at the top which was made in China, by unnamed women who do not even know that their products have been included in this piece of art.

Another is made from beads, but also using the hyperbolic principles involved in the crochet pieces.

One segment takes up the problem of plastic refuse that pollutes the oceans in that it is made entirely from plastic rejects and junk.

The fantasy of the participating women was impressively visible in the details:

It was an overwhelming experience.
Thank you, Margaret Westheim, for talking to me about the project in such detail, and to Ms. Heims, for giving me this personal tour.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Uta,

    I published the blog,

    Hope you will see it and perhaps add yourself to the members of this blog. Thank you very much, Julie Schauer