On Cornelia Parker
Jess McCabe // 24 March 2008
I have just been editing a feature for our next update, and the name of artist Cornelia Parker cropped up. In particular, she is the artist responsible for the ‘exploded shed’. Well, it turns out that she has two exhibitions in London at the moment, at Whitechapel Gallery and the Frith Street Gallery.
Running until 24 April, the Frith Street showing sounds good:
In the exhibition, Parker explores idea of ‘Latent News’, a surrealist game in which newspaper articles are cut into individual words and phrases and rapidly reassembled to make some other kind of sense. (The ‘cut-up’ technique has long been used by writers and musicians, and now has become even more ubiquitous in the form of Spam.) With the help of the innocent hand of her 6-year-old daughter, Lily, new mantras are spelled out.
Exploring the theme in a different way is a series of photographic works – from images of discarded newspapers to the pitches staked out by tabloid photographers at the East End funeral of Reggie Kray. New sculptural works take the form of shelters made from nets suspended from the gallery ceiling. The nets drape and overlap, the moire of black meshes resembling minimalist drawings in three dimensions.
But I am more intrigued by the Whitechapel exhibition, which runs alongside work by Noam Chomsky and seems to be sponsored by Friends of the Earth:
Though Parker fears that the planet may not be able to sustain human life by the end of this century, her work prompts reflection on our collective responsibilities and possible solutions.
Her famous shed is more properly called ‘Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View’, and you can see a photo over at the Tate’s blog.
Cold Dark Matter began life as a garden shed filled with objects from her own and friends’ sheds and things bought at a car boot sale. She then asked the army to blow up the shed under very controlled conditions. The objects, along with the fragments of the shed, were collected and suspended in a closed room in an attempt to recreate the moment just after the explosion. The installation is lit with a single light-bulb at the very centre of the arrangement, casting shadows on the walls. The title gives us a whole new way of understanding the artwork, making us think of other dramatic moments of destruction and creation in the much wider universe.
You can see some more examples of Parker’s work on the website of Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art, including the suspended remains of a suspected arson and two wedding rings melted down and turned into a thread the size of a living room.