Hyperbolic Drawing

Chris Moffett | October 6, 2011

I was just talking about line quality with a colleague, in preparation for an upcoming workshop. And I was reminded for a second time recently of a project that has literally been sitting on the shelf.

Hyperbolic Crochet

Crochet is an interesting way of working with line, as well as being an elegant way of expressing hyperbolic space. When we see line expressed in the full dimensionality of space, there is something quite stunning about it. I am still struck by the ways in which the lines shown in Herzog’s documentary on the Caves of Lascaux follow around the curves of stone so naturally. (If there was ever a movie that needs to be watched in 3D, it is this one, if only so the drawings themselves can explode our conceptions of technological space.) And working with people in the drawing lab a few weekends ago, it became even clearer to me that what is at stake is a different conception of space, a different way of moving. Even as we worked with the dimensionality of paper, it was expressed dynamically, lines wrapping themselves in space, or rather expressing space itself.

The shape formed by crocheting, in this photo of a study for a larger project, is simply the byproduct of a line of cord turning back and wrapping around itself over and over until a flexible but distinct structure begins to emerge.

I share this, I imagine, because I can feel something of that haunting my own thinking these days. There is a cartoon making the rounds on facebook, suggesting that success is not a straight line, but a convoluted mess that finally emerges into the standard vision of an arrow pointing up and to the right. But what if progress is not about breaking free, of “no child left behind” and “race to the top,” but about finding more and more interesting turns and textures? What if we engaged in a kind of experiential taxonomy of the line?