Last week, Art Center celebrated the opening of exhibition HYPERBOLIC: Reefs, Rubbish and Reason—on view through August 21 in the Williamson Gallery—with a reception and a pair of presentations in the Ahmanson Auditorium by Jerry Schubel, president and CEO of the Aquarium of the Pacific, and Margaret Wertheim, writer, artist and co-curator—along with her sister Christine Wertheim—of the Hyerpbolic Crochet Coral Reef project.
We spoke with Wertheim following the reception about what’s new in the coral reef, the mysterious Midden Monsters and growing an installation.
Dotted Line: The crochet coral reef project has travelled around the world. What’s the most unique thing about this project as it appears here in the Williamson Gallery?
Margaret Wertheim: We decided for this show that we wanted to make the plastic a major feature. Not only did we have a lot more of the plastic than we’ve had before—we’ve been collecting it for four years—but here we also had the space. That big pile of trash in the main room is new. We have shown the trash in a very small form once before, but here it’s a huge new element of the exhibition. Another new feature is the Coral Forest room. That is completely new. No version of that has ever been shown before. In fact, we built that in situ. And finally there’s the mathematics room. We’ve never had a whole room devoted to the math before. So three of the four rooms in this exhibition are completely new.
Dotted Line: Are some of the organisms in this particular installation a mutation of the Midden Monsters?
Werthheim: The Midden Monsters are pieces crocheted out of plastic trash. When they’ve been shown in the past—which is rare—the Midden Monsters have been pinned to the wall surrounding it. What happened in this case was that many of them got incorporated into the big white plastic piece in the Coral Forest room. The Midden Monsters, as a flock, transformed themselves into one giant Midden Monster. This show has a tendency to be very organic and, like living things, it evolves and morphs in response to the room that it’s in. The whole show grows to fit its environment. And since each environment is different, things have a tendency to come into being in new ways in each space.
Dotted Line: You mentioned in your presentation Wednesday night that the installation needs to grow into each space that it shows.
Wertheim: This work is very transmutable. It really is organic in the sense that it doesn’t have a fixed-down form. There are parts of it that do, like the bleached reef, which has pieces that look more literal than the others. That’s what we call our “classical work” and those are now fixed. We basically congealed those over the years into their perfect state. But all the rest of it changes each time we do the show. So every time we do it, it really is different. And the work encourages that because each piece is handmade, and that handmade philosophy extends to the exhibitions as a whole. A way to think of these exhibitions is that each exhibition is a handmade installation.