For the next three years, sculptor and installation artist Cornelia Parker will be an Honorary Professor within the University of Manchester. To mark this occasion, she spoke, amongst other things, about her acclaimed exhibition at the Whitworth, forthcoming projects and how she collaborates with scientists, engineers, pyrotechnicians and others to make art. I was lucky enough to attend this lecture on Thursday 23rd April within the surroundings of the newly refurbished Whitworth gallery.
As many of you may already know, The Whitworth Gallery reopened in February after a £15million redevelopment, launching with ten new exhibitions including a major solo show by Cornelia Parker. I visited about a week after the gallery's high profile relaunch and it was soon obvious to me why this exhibiton has received such high praise from across the art world. The show combines career-defining works such as 'Cold Dark Matter (An Exploded View)' and 'The Distance (A Kiss With String Attached)' along with new works including 'War Room', a vast and immersive installation made from punched out paper negatives taken from the Richmond poppy factory, which is unique to the Whitworth.
The critically exclaimed exhibition is both impressive and thought provoking and so I was incredibly excited to hear Cornelia herself talk about the show from her own perspective. I'll be honest, I wasn't sure exactly what to expect. Often we think of artists as these highly strung, inaccessible folk who almost seem to speak a different language to the rest of us. But Cornelia was a joy to listen to, incredibly intelligent but also humorous in her manner. At times she had the audience in fits of laughter as she spoke of how she inadvertently blew up an (empty) pram which was needed by it's owners as they were expecting twins any day, and other times she held all eyes as she explained her compelling work marking the 100 year anniversary of World War One. By the way, the owners of said pram were at the gallery opening in February to see if they could spot the misplaced item from 1991 in the midst of 'Cold Dark Matter'!
Subtitling the lecture 'Truth to Materials', Parker amazed us time and time again with her quests to get her hands on materials that most of us will never even touch in our lifetime, from sawn off shotguns and bullets to snake venom and cocaine. But there was a strong sense that she is far from content with simple police confiscated weapons and a jar of poison. Cornelia wants to take this even further, confessing that she is still working on getting NASA to help her out!
I'm finding it difficult to condense all of Parker's wonderful anecdotes and explanations that she shared into just one blog post, and in honesty I could never retell them in a way that does her any justice. I will however say that for the next three years, The University of Manchester will be lucky to call Cornelia Parker one of their Honorary Professors, her exhibition and her talent is truly world class.
Cornelia Parker's exhibition runs until 31st May 2015 @ The Whitworth Art Gallery