Radical Fiber: A Symposium on Art and Science

Two-day online event brings together thinkers and makers from the worlds of academia, arts, business, and tech to explore vital connections between fiber crafts and the sciences

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY (January 13, 2022) — The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College invites the public to Radical Fiber: A Symposium on Art and Science, to be held online January 28 and 29.

The two-day online symposium brings together scholars, artists, and thinkers in academia, business, tech, and the arts on the historical, present, and potential future connections of fiber crafts and the sciences. Each day includes a curator’s tour, two panel discussions, and a moderated conversation in which all attendees can meet and share ideas inspired by the day. A complete schedule and Zoom registration links are below.

The symposium is presented in conjunction with the exhibition Radical Fiber: Threads Connecting Art and Science, which features historical artifacts and contemporary art that demonstrate the ways in which fiber craft techniques and materials have influenced and impacted scientific fields like mathematics, digital technology, medicine, neuroscience, and more. The exhibition opens January 29 and runs through June 12, 2022.

The exhibition features works that span centuries and are made by artists, scientists, and mathematicians alike. It also features the Saratoga Springs Satellite Reef, a collaborative artwork made up of hundreds of crocheted corals created in the last year by amateur crafters and professional artists from the Capital Region and beyond. The reef installation is one of fifty such satellite reefs created around the world as part of the Crochet Coral Reef project by Christine and Margaret Wertheim and the Institute For Figuring.

The symposium and exhibition embrace values of cross-disciplinary collaboration and engagement and highlight the value of artists to offer solutions to our most challenging questions today. Participants will think creatively about the future of textiles—their role in our lives historically and how moments of scientific progress in textiles can inspire future innovation, their technological possibilities for social good, the need for a more sustainable textile industry, and more.

The symposium was originally scheduled to be in person. The rise in coronavirus cases and travel disruptions have prompted the move online. The public reception that had been scheduled for Saturday, January 29, has been canceled; however, the museum will be open to the public beginning Saturday, January 29, and resume weekly hours of Thursdays to Sundays noon to 5 pm, with extended hours until 9 pm on Thursdays. All visitors are required to show proof of vaccination and to wear masks. For more information, call the Visitors Services Desk at 518-580-8080. For the most up-to-date visitors guidelines, visit https://tang.skidmore.edu/visit.

Symposium Schedule

The symposium will be via Zoom and is free and open to the public. Registration is required for each session. All times are Eastern Standard Time.

Friday, January 28

11 am–12 pm: Curator’s tour of the Saratoga Springs Satellite Reef
Register via Zoom.
Part of the worldwide Crochet Coral Reef project by Christine and Margaret Wertheim and the Institute For Figuring.

1–1:15 pm: Welcome
Register via Zoom.

  • Ian Berry, Tang Dayton Director

  • Rebecca McNamara, Tang Associate Curator

1:15-2:30 pm: “Threads Throughout History”
See Welcome for Zoom registration link.

  • Elissa Auther, Craft Curator and Scholar

  • Dario Robleto, Artist

2:45–4 pm: “Making Visible: Math, Craft, Culture”
Register via Zoom

  • John Sims, MathArtist, Writer, and Curator

  • Jeffrey Splistoser, Anthropologist

  • Daina Taimina, Mathematician and Artist

  • Moderated by Stephen Ornes, Science Writer

4–4:30 pm: Day 1 Discussion
Register via Zoom.
A Zoom conversation open to all attendees to meet and talk about the first day of the symposium. Moderated by Associate Curator Rebecca McNamara.

Saturday, January 29

11 am–12 pm: Curator’s Tour of Radical Fiber: Threads Connecting Art and Science
Register via Zoom.

1–2:15 pm: “Textiles, Technology, and Social Good”
Register via Zoom.

  • Trisha L. Andrew, Materials Scientist, Inventor, Entrepreneur

  • Emilie Giles, Researcher, Artist, and Educator

  • Ursula Wolz, Computer Science Educator and Textile Crafter

  • Moderated by Aarathi Prasad, Computer Scientist

2:30–3:45 pm: “The Future of Textiles and Sustainability”
Register via Zoom

  • Preeti Arya, Textile Professional and Consultant

  • Juan Hinestroza, Nanotechnologist and Inventor

  • Alissa Sandra Baier-Lentz, Fashion Industry Entrepreneur

  • Moderated by Nurcan Atalan-Helicke, Food Studies Scholar

3:45–4:15 pm: Day 2 Discussion
Register via Zoom.
A Zoom conversation open to all attendees to meet and talk about the first day of the symposium. Moderated by Associate Curator Rebecca McNamara.

Radical Fiber: Threads Connecting Art and Science is organized by Associate Curator Rebecca McNamara, in consultation with Skidmore College faculty members Mark Huibregtse, Rachel Roe-Dale, and Becky Trousil from Mathematics & Statistics; Sara Lagalwar from Neuroscience; Elaine Larsen from Biology; Aarathi Prasad from Computer Science; and Sang-Wook Lee from Art.

About the Crochet Coral Reef

The Crochet Coral Reef is project created by sisters Christine Wertheim and Margaret Wertheim of the Institute For Figuring. Residing at the intersection of mathematics, marine biology, handicraft, and community art practice, the project responds to the environmental crisis of global warming and the escalating problem of oceanic plastic trash by highlighting not only the damage humans do to earth’s ecology, but also our power for positive action. The Wertheims’ Crochet Coral Reef collection has been exhibited worldwide, including at the 2019 Venice Biennale, Andy Warhol Museum (Pittsburgh), Hayward Gallery (London), Science Gallery (Dublin), and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History (Washington, DC). The project also encompasses a community-art program in which more than 20,000 people around the world have participated in making 50 locally based Satellite Reefs—in New York, Chicago, Melbourne, Ireland, Latvia, UAE, and elsewhere. The Saratoga Springs Satellite Reef on display here is the latest addition to this ever-evolving wooly archipelago.

About the Artists

Margaret Wertheim is a science writer, artist, and author of books on the cultural history of physics. Christine Wertheim is an experimental poet, performer, artist, and writer, and a faculty member at the California Institute of the Arts. Margaret and Christine conduct the Crochet Coral Reef project through their Los Angeles–based practice, the Institute For Figuring, which is dedicated to “the poetic dimensions of science and mathematics.” The IFF is at once an art endeavor and a framework for innovative public science engagement.

About the Tang Teaching Museum

The Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore College is a pioneer of interdisciplinary exploration and learning. A cultural anchor of New York’s Capital Region, the Tang’s approach has become a model for college and university art museums across the country—with exhibition programs that bring together visual and performing arts with interdisciplinary ideas from history, economics, biology, dance, and physics, to name just a few. The Tang has one of the most rigorous faculty-engagement initiatives in the nation, and a robust publication and touring exhibition program that extends the museum’s reach far beyond its walls. The Tang Teaching Museum’s award-winning building, designed by architect Antoine Predock, serves as a visual metaphor for the convergence of art and ideas. The Museum will be closed during Skidmore College’s winter break and as we prepare for new exhibitions to open January 29. The Museum will then be open to the public on Thursday–Sunday from noon to 5 p.m., with extended hours until 9 pm on Thursdays. http://tang.skidmore.edu.

Pattern by Fiona McLaughlin ’20
Inspired by the exhibition Opener 28 - Erika Verzutti: Mineral
The Tang Pattern Project celebrates the Museum’s 20th anniversary. Organized by Head of Design Jean Tschanz-Egger, past and current Tang Design Interns created patterns inspired by the Museum’s exhibition and event history.