I have always been a little sceptical with installations in the past – mostly because I had no idea what the artist was really trying to say. However, I can say, with hand on heart, that I really ‘get’ Cornelia Parker’s work.
This exhibition is so worth a visit. The newly refurbished/rebuilt Whitworth is gorgeous, although slightly drafty and forget grabbing a quick coffee as there is a permanent queue for the cafe. I will recommend Caffe Nero across the way!
Back to Cornelia. Her famous work ‘Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View’ used to appear in my Tate Calendar on my classroom wall every now and again, but I had no idea what it was all about… I do now! This was stunning!
Growing up with the threat of IRA bombings – something I remember all too well – Parker explores how we are continually given imagery of the violence and destruction it causes. Parker thought about how the garden shed is a place where we store all those things we can’t quite throw away and this is what attracted me to this work. She made a composite of a shed, using donated pieces of different sheds and filled it with as much detritus from our daily lives as she could lay her hands on. The shed had a central light and this was its only light source. This is so familiar that you can almost smell the old paint and turpentine that Grandpa kept in there.
With the help of the army – another story – Parker detonated the shed and collected all of the pieces. To form the installation, she hung a central light and surrounded it with the smallest items through to the largest. At that point, she hung the splintered remains of the shed. The result is the explosion caught in time.
As you walk into the room, you are struck by the eerie shadows cast on the walls. They are frightening with a threat of what has happened already. When you get closer, you look past the shed walls and start to see what is there: old paint cans, an ice skate, bike parts, all the way down to grannie’s hair curlers. The overwhelming feeling is that you are caught in the centre of that explosion. Imagine standing inside. That is what it would be like to be at the epicentre – you would never survive the real thing and Parker’s work is staggering as you now know what it would feel like. It is a terrifying moment captured in time.
There is more on this at the Tate’s website: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/parker-cold-dark-matter-an-exploded-view-t06949
Every room you went into had something fascinating in it. The other piece that I felt a resonance for was Black Path (Bunhill Fields). I am terribly sentimental and will always want a souvenir from places that mean something to me or to visit places that have connections to people I admire. Just looking round my house, I have a leaf from the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi tree in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, and a dried piece of rosemary from Paul McCartney’s childhood garden (Rosemary is for remembrance, don’t you know! – Ophelia said so “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance, pray you love, remember.” ).
And this, in effect, is what Parker has done with this:
Black Path (Bunhill Fields)
This is from the exhibition guide:
As she went to Jerusalem and repeated this, while she was mediating on the words of Blake’s poem, and how his idealisation of Jerusalem is a “far cry from the politically fraught place that it is now”, I was struck by the simplicity of bringing the two places together in such a poignant, yet original way.
There is so much more that I could talk about and that says a lot about an artist I had been unaware of before. I fell in love with Parker’s work as I went round. So much to think about and to challenge the viewer. I posted Jeanette Winterson’s love letter to the Whitworth on Valentine’s Day and I’ll finish by quoting sonething she said as I could not put it better:
“Creativity in all its forms is a passionate engagement with making something happen. Like falling in love, art is a disturbance of what is; a reordering of existing material; an encounter with otherness; and a baffled certainty that what is happening – long or short, brief or lasting – has to happen (the urgency of love and making). The happening of art renews, replaces or renames the tired old cliches of the obvious. Love changes us. Art changes us.”