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Cordelia Parker, and the Synthesis of Art and Violence
By: Tony Lu
Art has often been used as a symbol of civilization, human culture, and the glorious past and future of the world. But what if it represented precisely what tore down those norms of the peaceful world?
Violence is precisely what British contemporary artist Cornelia Parker aims to capture in her variety of innovative works. Parker finds and extracts the beauty of destruction and chaos through capturing the exact moment of destruction, fossilizing her art in a state of perpetual peace, yet exemplifying explosive violence. Her work is far from being theoretical and contemplative: she hits us with sheer brutality that makes a psychological impact.
In some ways, Parker reduces art to its most primordial facets. To create the ingredients necessary and to develop and observe ideas to make art is an inherently violent process: pigments used in painting and drawing are crushed, squeezed, and forced out of nature to serve our purposes. Parker is reminding us of what art truly is: a transformation of primitive violence and destruction into something predictable, organized, and powerful.
Parker’s works often combine almost reckless violence with unsettling patterns. Her work Thirty Pieces of Silver was created by crushing with a steamroller over one thousand antique silver objects she had found and acquired, and then hanging them from thin strings so as to make them hover them mere inches above the floor. The objects, which range from spoons to plates to teacups, are arranged in a premeditated, almost eerily simple array compared to the complexity of the mangled objects themselves. Parker uses light and shadow to accentuate features of her works as well. In her most well-known work, Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View, she casts light on fragments of a garden shed that she blew apart with assistance from the British Army. The shadows of the broken bits create complicated, intricate patterns against the walls of the exhibition. Ultimately, Parker’s art expresses the fact that the primordial world is set in foundations not of civilization, but of violence, and that artwork is an effort to harness and give order to the destruction inherent in the world we live in.