An article in yesterday's New York Times describes The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef, an art exhibit by Margaret and Christine Wertheim featuring all these wonderful elements:
textile art: In this case, crochet. The exhibit features sea creatures, such as kelp, anemones, corals, and sponges, crocheted out of the most magnificent yarns. The crochet coral reef covers 35,000 square feet! In the Wertheim's essay for the Chicago Cultural Center, they write:
Every person who takes up this craft creates new species of crochet organisms and we have come to see the project as a collective experiment in textile-based evolution. Just as all living creatures result from variations in an underlying DNA code, so the species in these handi-crafted reefs arise from deviations in a single simple algorithm.
feminism: Crochet and knitting, though not exclusive to women, are undoubtedly a feminine realm. (Though there are exceptions!) In 1997 Margaret Wertheim published a feminism-inflected book on women and science, titled Pythagoras' Trousers: God, Physics, and the Gender Wars.
mathematical theory: The crocheted forms grew from a mathematical model:
Hyperbolic crochet was itself the outgrowth of an unexpected branch of geometry. For two thousand years mathematicians attempted to prove that the only possible geometries were the flat, or Euclidean, plane, and the sphere. Great minds expended themselves on the effort, only to discover in the nineteenth century that a third option was logically necessitated....Mathematicians’ skepticism about hyperbolic space had been based in part on their inability to imagine how it would look, for they had no way to model it physically. Most were thus astounded when, in 1997, Dr. Daina Taimina, a Latvian émigré at Cornell University, presented a hyperbolic structure made with crochet.
science: The crocheted coral reef forms imitate real creatures dwelling on Australia's Great Barrier Reef, whose bodies exhibit hyperbolic forms.
environmentalism: The project highlights the rate at which coral reefs are being devastated by global warming and agricultural run-off.
More photos here!