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Cornelia Parker

British Sculptor and Installation Artist

Cornelia Parker Photo

Born: July 14, 1956 - Cheshire, England

"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 all possibilities."

Summary of Cornelia Parker

Cornelia Parker is famous for her acts of destruction, which in turn produce ephemeral, beautiful installations out of wreckage. She often uses found objects with very specific histories - such as banned pornographic tape, or worn out brass band instruments as her base material, and in other cases (as with her exploded shed) produces objects only to blow them up, and carefully reassemble the pieces.

For Parker, the process and the materials are as important as the object. In more recent work, she has also used art historical works as 'found objects', destroying them symbolically instead of literally (as in The Distance: A Kiss With Added String (2003), as well as using the language of props, sets, and fake architecture, to set up new relationships between art, architecture, and the built environment.

Key Ideas

In the 1990s, Parker began to experiment with what she called "Avoided Objects". These include objects that have been squashed, burnt or exploded; the backs or underbellies of objects; objects only partially formed; objects that are avoided socially or psychologically; and non-objects like cracks, creases and shadows. Although readymades and found objects have been prevalent in contemporary art since the early 1900s, these works re-ignite this practice for contemporary art today; shift emphasis on to the actual objects' uses and pasts, and help us to better understand our own embodied relationship to things.
Much of Parker's work has been controversial due to her destructive processes - steamrolling, blowing up, wrapping and melting objects to produce a raw material to build up again. This process of collection, destruction, and then rebuilding is essential to representing histories as malleable, complex, and often traumatic things, and her seemingly delicate work helps open up the hidden stories of objects and the people who have used them.
In the 2000s, Parker made interventions in important historical artworks, working directly on to seminal artworks, as in wrapping Rodin's The Kiss in string, and recreating Gainsborough's painting Mr and Mrs Andrews as a large-scale sculpture of a gun against a tree. These later pieces are cotemporary re-imaginings of canonical works, allowing us to see the artworks she uses as source material as if for the first time, reinvigorating them for a contemporary audience.
Cornelia Parker Photo

One of three daughters, Parker and her family lived on a smallholding in Cheshire, England, where her father worked. She spent a lot of time helping her father, doing physical work on the land, and saw escape and play as something rare and secretive. She describes her childhood as "insular" both in terms of geography and a lifestyle characterized by hard work.

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