"This piece came out of a series of works I was doing about cartoon deaths - things like, things falling off cliffs, things being run over by a steam roller, things being blown up, shot full of bullets, like Roadrunner or Tom and Jerry. The garden shed came about because I was trying to find something universal and archetypal and that we all identified with and that was familiar to us. It's not the house but it's this kind of attic-y private place at the bottom of the garden which we put all our left-over stuff in. And so it seemed like a depository rather than the place that you live. We took it out to the Banbury Army School of Ammunition, to their demolition grounds where they do all these experiments with explosives and they were really keen to blow it up. I actually pressed the button that detonated it.
The whole point of suspending it is to rob it of its pathos. After it was blown up and all the objects were lying on the floor, all very distressed, they had a pathos and somehow putting it back in the air where they were a little while before, it sort of re-animates them.
The title of the piece is called 'Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View'. It's a two-part title really. The 'cold dark matter' I really like because obviously explosions have all kinds of connotations, dark ones being the most prominent. Also, 'cold dark matter' sounds like a psychological state - a mood or an atmosphere or a depression - I like the sound of that. It's a scientific term: it was coined to describe all the stuff in the universe you can't quantify, all the stuff they know is there but you can't see, which seemed a perfect description. And then 'an exploded view' is the kind of diagram you get in technical manuals to describe how a car works or a bike or a lawnmower, a very pragmatic laying out of stuff. And so that's what I was trying to do, to organise something that was totally beyond our control and emotional control". CORNELIA PARKER
Parker likes doing violent things to her materials: she has shot, crushed and stretched objects before. Yet what is surprising about this piece is not its energy or movement but its peace and tranquillity. The white heat of the explosion exists now as a memory, like the original big bang alluded to in the title. The splintered debris from one second in time is frozen in space in a perfect cube. The heat and violence are history, seen now as a warped and tarnished silver plate, the singed pages of a picture book or a charred splinter of wood. Each immobile fragment once had its own story, once belonged to someone's life. The fragility of Cold Dark Matter, the delicate shards of blackened wood suspended in space, the emptiness at its centre, confronts us with our own mortality.
© Harriet Grace Abbott, all rights reserved