Sacha Craddock - critic & curator

Cornelia Parker: Cold Dark Matter, Chisenhale Gallery, October 1991

The Guardian

Exploding onto the scene 

Cornelia Parker's installation Cold Dark Matter; An Exploded View at the Chisenhale Gallery is the result of a well-organised explosion. Her past installations have often involved the use of domestic objects but this time she wanted them blown up first.
Once the amount of "distress" and damage she desired had been explained to the officers at the Army Ammunition Training Base near Banbury they were only too happy to oblige. And so it was that an unlikely combination of people assembled in a Middle England field. Photographers protected their lenses behind sandbags, squaddies talked into walkie-talkies, the charming Major Douglas Hewitt chatted amiably to the presenter of Kaleidescope, while three trainee explosives experts from Kenya looked on in bewildered disbelief.
The ordinary objects were packed into a garden shed. Parker had deliberately chosen the kind of items usually piled up and stacked away in sheds and attics — things that are difficult to part with or you never knew you had.
After an orderly count-down the shed went sky high. The bicycle was flung out far while some casts remained almost intact. Screws and bolts from the toolbox had dispersed with force and plastic haircurlers and broken and charred toys were everywhere.
Parker collected together the debris and the subsequent installation is somewhat of a disappointment. Although she never intended to mimic the actual explosion, there is still something too safe about the way she has nestled together the quiet and still mass by suspending it on wires from the ceiling.
There is little formal force in this cat's cradle; the pieces appear even and equal. The desire to show comfortable and familiar things in a different light is understandable but gravity is playing too much a part here in something that started with such a bang. 

© Sacha Craddock Oct 1991

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