Cornelia Parker, sheds, trombones and a sleeping tilda swinton….

My work is somehow very quiet and not really violent at all – it’s calm, like the eye of the storm.
Parker, Cornelia.

I was really lucky to obtain a ticket to hear Cornelia Parker talk at the University College Falmouth on tuesday. I remember a visit to the Tate Modern quite a few years back and after visiting room after room filled with great works of art but not quite appreciating them i stepped into the room which held Cornelia Parker’s exploded shed or Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View as it is formally known. This large white room , centrally lit by one solo lightbulb and from it crescending outwards that pinpointed moment of an exploded shed. I felt a parallel sense of huge energy but at the same time a silence which enabled me to step inside a moment of something ordinary but recreated into something new – like evolution had stopped and let me step onboard and have an inside view…to me it seemed like a visual expression of those times when we want to voice something deeper but can only say “i don’t have the words to explain myself“.

Image of: Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View

There’s a lot of violence in the making of these things, but a quiet aftermath. I take things that are worn out through overuse, that have become clichés, like the shed, a traditional place of rest and retreat, and I give them a more incandescent future. Explosions are very familiar from films and the news, but how many of us have seen one or even touched a piece of the debris?
Parker, Cornelia and Mark Hudson (Interviewer). “Cornelia Parker Interview.” in: Telegraph. June 24, 2010.

On listening to Cornelia Parker talk i gained a stronger sense of respect for her work, she didn’t seem to use “an elite form of artists language” and talked about using everyday objects in her work and the importance of working with people outside the art community; she states “My work has threads of ideas from all over the place. I try to crystallise them in something simple and direct that the viewer can then take where they want.” Within the lecture someone asked her how she formulated the conversations that she would engage with ‘ordinary people’ outside of her work – (she worked with the British Army to blow up her shed) – i liked that she responded that she doesn’t think like that, that its much more of a naturalistic experience where she can only be herself within. She seemed to like not to define the end point of her pieces  being worked on, and rather see them as a journey; “I think your subconscious knows far more than your conscious, so I trust it. I just make it first and then it becomes much clearer to me why.”

Thirty pieces of silver’, steamrolled silver plate, metal wire, 1988-9

Thirty Pieces of Silver (Exhaled) Sugar Bowl

Cornelia Parker arranged for a steamroller to level a scavenged collection of silver objects to create the raw materials for a large-scale sculpture. She transforms the familiar, everyday objects  and investigate the nature of matter, testing  physical properties and playing on private and public meaning and value. Her work is often suspended allowing the flattened, the crushed , the burnt, the exploded to obtain some shape and mass again. It seems important to her that we can relate to the original materials that she has reconstructed – “My art is about destruction, resurrection and reconfiguration: an exploration of the secret lives of objects and materials, both strange.”.

She often works with objects that hold some sort of collective value/ memory, She’s asking us to look at familiar things and people from a fresh perspective and reimagine their history. like a feather from Sigmund Freud’s pillow, a quill of charles dickens, the bed gown from rosemary’s baby, she exhibited these pieces alongside a sleeping Tilda Swinton in a glass case, at the Serpentine Gallery in 1995.

bohemea:In 1995, Tilda Swinton participated in a performance art piece conceived by Cornelia Parker titled The Maybe at the Serpentine Gallery in London. Tilda slept for eight hours a day in an exhibition cabinet while visitors observed Tilda as a modern day Sleeping Beauty in blue jeans. She was scrutinized, pondered, and even read to by a poet. <br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />

“You make an open-ended proposition and the audience completes it somehow. That’s what you hope an artwork to be – a constantly living thing.”

Some other works of Cornelia Parker (click on the pics for further info)

Cornelia Parker “Mass” 1997 – Charred remains of a Texas church that was struck by lightning.

Winding down: 'The brass band,' says Parker, 'is part of a robustness that this country used to have'

“The brass band is part of a robustness we used to have,” says Parker. “Related to the unions, the British Legion, the Salvation Army – an anthem that is slowly winding down. So the instruments in my piece are permanently inhaled. They’ve literally had the wind taken out of them.”

Parker has recently responded to the growing crisis of climate change and has been part of Friends of the Earth’s campaign to re-engage the public with such issues, recognising that scientists are not engaging with the general public, parker and others have been asked to find ways of exploring and explaining climate change, she says:

There’s a huge emotional dimension to global warming. We’re all emotional human beings but scientists aren’t allowed to display their personal feelings about this – they’re not allowed to be activists.

Scientists have to be seen to be rational otherwise it will undermine their work and people won’t take them seriously. Whereas artists can be expressive, acting more like free radicals.”

As part of this engagement with climate change politics she interviewed noam chomsky for the Eighth Sharjah biennial in the United Arab Emirates, the resulting film called Chomskian Abstract

The rain is currently hurtling through my window at very unsummery speeds, so i’ll draw my introduction to Cornelia Parker to an end and hope that you get to see some of her work in real in the future – cheers – keri – Humble Cottage

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