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The child who put coins on the railroad track

By: Alicia Chen

There once was a child who put coins on the railroad track, letting the train crush those coins. This child took something simple like a little coin and turned it into something more, a piece of art.

This child is Cornelia Parker, a British artist who likes to detonate things and run them over, turning something we see every day into a beautiful work of art. You can see the violence in her art, as she has thrown things off cliffs, blown up a shed, and paints her pieces with lethal poison.

Parker’s work has more meaning than meets the eye, her famous piece, “Thirty Pieces of Silver” is a great example. She used secondhand brass pieces and ran them over with a steamroller to create this piece. Then, she used string to dance them a few inches from the ground. This piece is eerily symmetrical but at the same time all different. The name refers to the bible, signifying money, betrayal, death, and to resurrection.

Another of her famous pieces is Rodin’s “Kiss” wrapped in a mile of string, turning something everybody has seen so many times we are almost blind to it, into something completely different and new. Parker chose exactly a mile of string because that was the amount of string French artist Marcel Duchamp webbed inside the inside of a museum as a prank, making it odd for people walking through the museum.

Like Marcel Duchamp — the man who turned a new urinal sideways signed it, and dared people to call it a work of art — Park also reuses finished products to create new pieces. But the difference between those two is Duchamp simply just uses the materials without or barely altering them, but Park blows them up, smashes them, and then uses those materials. Park’s pieces are also very emotional and very modern.

Her most famous piece is a blown-up shed. Parker named this piece “Cold Dark Matter.” This is an exploded view of a shed, created two years after “Thirty Pieces of Silver.” There is a lightbulb in the middle of this “shed,” illuminating the whole piece and casting intricate shadows on the walls and on the floors. Viewers often find themselves mesmerized by looking at an explosion forever trapped in time.

Destruction and regeneration are how all things cycle and Park is simply regenerating these ordinary things, and making them into beautiful works of art people have yet to see.

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