Cornelia Parker Destroys Objects to Create Art
By: Albert Wen
British artist Cornelia Parker’s artwork stunningly captures simultaneous violence and delicateness by suspending smashed objects as if they were stuck in time.
Understanding Parker’s method of creating art requires looking into fragments of her past. She lived in Cheshire, England, and was forced to work hard throughout her childhood. Her father spontaneously lost his temper, and her mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was often hospitalized for electric shock treatment.
Parker often liked to escape from the chaos of her childhood by watching coins getting crushed on a railroad track, developing an appreciation for destruction. She became more interested in objects when working as a salesperson, but felt ashamed of collecting objects, so she decided to use objects in her art.
Parker’s ephemeral childhood and her fascination for objects culminated in her best known piece, Cold Dark Matter, which features the remnants of a garden shed stuck in the midst of an explosion, expressing the fleeting yet timeless nature of our place in the world, a common theme present in Parker’s art.
Cold Dark Matter and other artworks by Parker often make use of their location, casting shadows from a central light source to make the viewer’s shadow seem like part of the artwork itself.
Much of her art also features objects releasing their previous constraints through explosions, transforming into something else. Parker says, “I resurrect things that have been killed off... my work is all about the potential of materials - even when it looks like they've lost.”
Along with being trapped in time, the individual objects in Parker’s art are usually hung by strings, possibly representing entrapment. One notable example of this is The Distance: A Kiss with String Attached, which uses string in a different way. Like the rest of Parker’s art, its deliberate arrangement forces the viewer to look at a familiar object in a different light.
The most commonly used objects include flowers, silverware, and glass containers, which are used to reflect and refract light.