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culture

Hyperbolic Crochet Makes Yarn Look Like the Sea Floor

Math meets art in the return of a craft collective's windowfront experiment.

Photo courtesy of the {a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/torontocraftalert/6930285395/sizes/z/in/photostream/”}Toronto Craft Alert{/a}.

The Los Angeles–based Institute for Figuring, which describes itself online as “an organization dedicated to the poetic and aesthetic dimensions of science, mathematics and the technical arts” (phew), launched its Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef project in 2005 as a response to the mounting threat posed to marine habitats by global warming and oceanic trash. They put forth an invitation for crafting communities throughout the world to build their own crochet reefs. In 2008, a team of four artists in Toronto did just that. Now, over two years after its last showing, the reef is back and bigger than ever.

“We’ve added a lot more shape,” explains artist Shannon Gerard, a crocheter who has contributed a considerable amount of yarn reef to the project’s Toronto satellite to date. “Previously, when we’ve shown it, it’s just been a side project, but now we have more interest in it and more reason and impetus to grow it and make it bigger.” Part of that impetus is the group’s desire to build a closer relationship with the Institute for Figuring, which the artists hope will result in more collaboration along similar lines.

Gerard explains that the Institute for Figuring’s “idea of using hyperbolic space to think about biological forms, and the possibilities of what crochet could communicate” was what initially drew her and the other three women involved in the local reef, Angelune Des Lauriers, Kalpna Patel and Becky Johnson, to the endeavour.

Crochet, as a medium, lends itself naturally to experimentation with hyperbolic geometry (a theory of non-Euclidean geometry wherein lines curve away from each other as opposed to lying parallel). In contrast to the linear patterns of knitting, Gerard explains that “crochet is kind of built on repetition of the same thing over and over again,” where the introduction of slight changes to the pattern causes a gradual, amorphous change to the structure’s overall shape. It’s a handicraft that, in a sense, mirrors nature and the way actual coral reefs are formed.

Johnson says that it was always the group’s intention to keep showing the reef, but it took over two years to find a space for it. “Roadside Attractions put out a call for installations a year and a half or two years ago, and they got so many responses that they just booked the space for two years. Our slot just happened to be a year and a half after the call had gone out.”

Now, with the help of donated materials, the reef’s growth continues. It can be observed in the front window of Roadside Attractions gallery (911 Davenport Road) until March 30.

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