Critics’ Picks

  • Cornelia Parker, Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View, 1991, blown up garden shed and contents, wire, light bulb, dimensions variable.

    Cornelia Parker, Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View, 1991, blown up garden shed and contents, wire, light bulb, dimensions variable.

    Cornelia Parker

    Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia
    140 George Street The Rocks
    November 8, 2019–February 16, 2020

    Cornelia Parker makes art about gravity: how to elude it, how we cannot. In many of the installations, sculptures, and films surveyed here, the English artist emphasizes a fragmented, paralyzed sense of history by fixing objects in midair. In Thirty Pieces of Silver, 1988–89, dozens of circles made of cutlery flattened by a steamroller hang from wires attached to the ceiling so that they appear to levitate above the gallery floor: poignant leftovers of the British Empire. (The pre-steamrolled silverware makes an appearance through a depiction in a tapestry weave.) The work’s title—the infamous rate for which Judas sold Christ to the Romans—unsubtly alludes to avarice, betrayal, and revival. Lit by a lone lightbulb, Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View, 1991, likewise deploys suspension, in this case to freeze toys, shoes, a broken bike, and planks—along with other myriad debris, all from a shed that the artist detonated with help from the British army—into a haunting architecture that seems to expand, a blasted monument to the cosmos of war. In the video short Thatcher’s Finger, 2018, an ombromanie recorded after Parker’s experience as the 2017 election artist, the shadow of the stateswoman’s finger stalks the walls of the Parliament, as though looking for culprits to blame for the ongoing Brexit disaster. Although seemingly inert, Parker’s pieces cumulatively track and disrupt the longue durée of British conquest with a spectacular and atomic approach to material, suggesting the capacious possibility that resides in the details which make up a history.