Unless you know about some sort of underground fight club where combatants wield knitting hooks, “extreme fun” isn’t the first word that comes to mind when someone mentions crochet. “Lop-sided toddler hats made for kids by well-intentioned grandparents” or “pastime of fidgety MFA students”? Sure. The type of knitting is as low-impact as they come. But that may change thanks to the success of Harmonic Motion, a crocheted play structure strung up in a Japanese mall.
The tennis-court sized installation, housed on the ground floor of Japan’s tallest building, is completely interactive. It’s also a knit wonder-world for kids.
Uvula-like, fiber-wrapped orbs dangle over the ground, which anchor the net and create holes into the kaleidoscopically colored space. You enter by climbing the anchors or ascend through the holes. Once inside, kids can pad across the net or attempt to ascend the high peaks. The nylon strands that make up the mesh are surprisingly springy, and smaller climbers can bounce on it trampoline-style. There’s a second set of nets walls off the sides, that prevents falls and filters incoming light into bold primary colors. It’s like being the guest of a friendly spider who’s really into Phish.
Harmonic Motion is the brainchild of Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam and her husband, Charles. The MacAdams wove the entire piece by hand, crocheting the fibers at their Nova Scotia studio. They initially fabricated the piece for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome, but it’s since embarked on a world tour, with a stop at the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio before arriving at Hong Kong’s IFC Mall. It’s been a hit with everyone from art world elites to Hong Kong’s rowdiest toddlers.
This is what the artist intended. Horiuchi MacAdam is one of the founding luminaries of the field of fiber art. Her work in the 1970s helped propel woven sculptures into the mainstream. The idea first came to her when a group of children started climbing all over one of her pieces as it hung in a gallery. Instead of freaking out and banishing the kids, MacAdam decided to make public art that invited viewers to play freely. She then crocheted a piece for a preschool playground and never looked back.
Horiuchi’s work is inspired by nostalgia. Specifically, for her freewheeling 1950s childhood which she sees as an antidote to the sedentary lifestyle of children today. Harmonic Motion builds on decades of work the couple has put into interactive knit sculptures, most of which are situated in Japanese parks. Those pieces are so popular in Japan that parents drive hundreds of miles to give their kids a chance to climb.
Harmonic Motion is free to the public — and one of the few MacAdam sculptures that allows adults. Unfortunately, the structure is currently in transit to its next home, which has yet to be announced. In the meantime, you can check out this full database of MacAdam interactive sculptures to find some suited for your kids.