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Cornelia Parker’s Violent Works of Art

By: Jacob Yang

Cornelia Parker’s sculptures are very out of the ordinary. Her artwork is composed of broken-up pieces of wood, plastic, and other various random items to make a final product that seems both vicious and violent in nature. As a museum exhibit dedicated to her opens, viewers are still finding pleasure in deriving new meanings from her work.

Over 40 years later from the start of her career, Parker continues to create her sculptures using the most outrageous materials and techniques - everything ranging from dead spiders to crushed tubas. The Tate Museum in London showcases these pieces of artwork and many more throughout the 40 years.

Her first ever artwork released to the public, “Thirty Pieces of Silver,” included driving a train over 1000 forks and pots. However, the real start of her creating smashed objects was when she was a child. Working for her father, she put coins on railroad tracks for fun, and when the train passed by, the coins became dented and ruptured.

In an interview with BBC Culture, Parker stated that “I wanted to make a work with a light source. It's linked to explosion – the flash – so that's where the light first appeared.” She stated this towards arguably her most famous piece: “Cold Dark Matter.” Whenever she is working with art, she always thinks about explosion.

This piece, and many others from Parker, contains blotches of shadows and light spots on all 4 walls. The alternating colors, similar to her squashing coins, came from her childhood.

One new addition to the Tate Museum’s exhibit is a piece of art called “Perpetual Canon”. It consists of 60 crushed band instruments, including trumpets, trombones, and tubas, created from the same method as Thirty Pieces of Silver. This time, instead of a steamroller, she used an industrial press, 25 times stronger than the train. She hung all the instruments from the ceiling with string in a circle, creating a “marching band” effect, as Parker put it.

The final sculpture in the exhibit, “Island,” is, as BBC Culture puts it, “A greenhouse whose windows have been smudged with strokes of chalk from the White Cliffs of Dover.” Like Cold Dark Matter and Perpetual Canon, its “shadows fill the walls,” creating a breathing-like effect.

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