Cornelia Parker was born in Cheshire, UK. She studied at Gloucestershire College of Art and Design (1974-75), Wolverhampton Polytechnic (1975-78), and received her MFA from Reading University in 1982. Parker was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Wolverhampton (2000), the University of Birmingham (2005) and the University of Gloucestershire (2008). Parker lives and works in London.
Cornelia Parker is often known for her large-scale installations. In 1991, she had the British Army blow up a garden and arranged the fragments in a kind of snapshot of the explosion (Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View). In the middle, a light was installed that cast the shadows of the wood dramatically against the walls of the room. Parker’s convincing translations of familiar everyday objects explore the nature of matter, test physical properties, and play with private and public opinions and values. The artist explored numerous methods, such as exploding, squeezing, stretching, to express her art with materials loaded with historical associations, such as a feather from Sigmund Freud’s pillow.
The Maybe (1995) in the Serpentine Gallery was a collaboration with the actress Tilda Swinton, who, apparently asleep, lay inside a showcase. She was surrounded by other display cases with relics of famous historical personalities, such as Mrs. Simpson’s skates, Charles Dickens’ quill and Queen Victoria’s pantyhose. She also carried out further interventions with historical art objects. For example, as her contribution to Tate Triennale, Parker wrapped Auguste Rodin’s The Kiss — which had been specially moved from its normal installation at the Tate Modern — in a mile of string, calling her resulting work The Distance (a Kiss with string attached).
Avoided Object is an ongoing series of smaller works developed in collaboration with various institutions, including the Royal Armouries Museum (Leeds) and Madame Tussauds. These objects have been robbed of their true identity by being burned, shot, squashed, stretched, pulled, blown up or simply thrown off a cliff. Cornelia Parker has long been fascinated by death in cartoon series: Tom rolled over by a steamroller or Jerry with bullet holes. The death of some objects is simply staged, or it has its causes in accidents or simple, natural circumstances.
A further example of these works is Pornographic Drawings (1997), which consists of several ink drawings made from (pornographic) videotapes confiscated by the customs with the help of solvents. “I resurrect things that have been killed off…My work is all about the potential of materials – even when it looks like they’ve lost all possibilities.” On 13 February 2008, a new exhibition by Cornelia Parker opened at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London, organised in collaboration with Friends of the Earth. It includes a 40-minute film – Chomskian Abstract, 2007 – showing her interview with the world-famous writer and theorist Noam Chomsky. The exhibition also included Parkers Poison and Antidote Drawings (2004), the black ink of which contains snake venom and the white ink the corresponding antidote.
Parker’s works were included in the 16th Sydney Biennial and the 8th Sharjah Biennial in 2008. She has had major solo exhibitions at Serpentine Gallery, London (1998), Deitch Projects, New York (1998), ICA Boston (2000), Galeria de Arte Moderne Civica in Turin (2001), Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart (2004), Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas (2006), Ikon Gallery, Birmingham (2007), Museo de Arte de Lima, Peru (2008) and Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, Great Britain (2010), the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney, Australia (2019). Her work is included in major public collections such as the MOMA (New York), the Tate Gallery, the British Council, Henry Moore Foundation, M. H. de Young Memorial Museum (San Francisco), and the Yale Center for British Art. In 1997, Parker was shortlisted for the Turner Prize.