United Kingdom, 1956
British artist Cornelia Parker (Cheshire, England, 1956) works with sculpture, installation, photography and occasionally video. She received her BFA from Wolverhampton Polytechnic (1975-1978) and her MFA from the University of Reading (1980-1982). Although she studied painting, she soon decided she preferred making objects to representing them. Her work always starts with commonplace objects that are then either wrenched out of their familiar surroundings or subjected to drastic changes. Parker crushes, burns or even blows up the objects used to create her pieces. In one of her first installations, Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View (1991), she had a garden shed blown up by the British Army and then suspended the fragments from the ceiling of the exhibition space to create a fragile structure lit only from inside by a light bulb. The instruments in a brass band were the objects chosen to become Perpetual Canon (2004). Here, trumpets, tubas and flutes are flattened and suspended from the ceiling in a circle. With no air left inside at all, they have lost their purpose. Although sculpture was historically based on concepts of stability and solidity, on its relationship with the earth, since Arte Povera and the dematerialisation of the object in the sixties, sculpture has moved away from these premises. Parker’s installations and sculptures constantly defy gravity, floating in space, and the idea of suspension takes over either literally or metaphorically in an attempt to capture the vulnerability and fragility of everything around us. Parker not only works by transforming the objects she includes in her work; she also explores the meanings they transmit. The selected materials are often surrounded by a certain historical or literary aura—a cushion from Sigmund Freud’s couch, Albert Einstein’s blackboard or the guillotine used for Marie Antoinette’s execution—and by showing them utterly out of context she questions the process by which these objects have become celebrated in our culture. Her work explores cultural attitudes towards art, museums, collecting and science.