Cornelia Parker ★★★ Tate Britain | May 19 - Oct 16, 2022


"If you start off with the found object, that object already has a history to draw on." This exhibition is the first major survey of Cornelia Parker's work and includes two new creations: the film, FLAG (2022) and the installation, Island (2022). The nine galleries span 35 years of Parker's output and display the notable variety of media she has chosen to work in, from sculpture and photography to films and installations. The range of her commentary is equally wide, with references to Henry VIII and Donald Trump among others. Indeed, the descriptions of the work that are provided are replete with historical and literary references. Parker delights in finding significance in the commonplace, often through random historical association, such as the splitting of an Oliver Twist doll with the guillotine used for the execution of Marie Antoinette. However, in other works, like Thirty Pieces of Silver (1988-1989) and Perpetual Canon (2004), she literally squeezes the meaning from random objects. Her flattening of silver objects and musical instruments becoming a comment on their traditional value and significance. Whereas in Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View (1991) she employs the opposite technique. Working with the Army School of Ammunition she has exploded a garden shed with Semtex and after the soldiers collected the remains, Parker hangs and lights them to illuminate a fresh perspective on their usual signification. The social and political commentary in her oeuvre is unabashed and provocative. Films like Made in Bethlehem (2012-2013) and the environment War Room (2015) definitely challenge easy assumptions. These are works that are intended to confront and to question. As Parker herself notes, "We need art more than ever because it's like the digestive system, a way of processing."

Rated: ★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Image: Cornelia Parker, Perpetual Canon (2004), Collection of Contemporary Art Fundación “la Caixa”, Barcelona © Cornelia Parker

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