While making my cine frame pieces, I have been thinking about an essay I wrote earlier in my degree about Cornelia Parker. I love her work, and my essay looked at several pieces, including one series that connects strongly with my cine project. Parker made her Pornographic Drawings, 1996 from damaged celluloid film: they were Rorschach blots made with dissolved video porn films that had been confiscated and shredded by Customs and Excise (Brett, G. and Watkins, J. (1996) Cornelia Parker: Avoided Object. Cardiff: Chapter.)
These stains were the residue of many acts: performance recorded on the tapes, video recording, the decisions to make the films, and decisions to confiscate them, their removal, shredding, mixing with ferric oxide, chemical dissolution… Parker refined these to small, elegant images which appear to condense lots of processes, and be more about those processes than meaning. At the same time Parker used Rorschach blots that are icons of subconscious visual association with personal meanings and narratives. She added the explanatory words “suspended in solvent” to her 1996 work’s title, while her blots record her own gentle action that is innocent compared to the pornographic activity that was recorded and suspended in the original videos. Although her Drawings look dry and elegant and starkly simple, they fill our heads with sweaty action, bodily fluids, different characters, moral judgements, ideas about individual freedoms and society’s rules. Lots of different narratives, in fact.
So last weekend, when I visited my daughter in Manchester, I was very excited indeed to go and see Cornelia Parker’s work at the Whitworth. I didn’t expect to find any, because I’d heard the exhibition included very recent work but yes, she had included some Pornographic Drawings, 2005!
The drawings are on a bigger scale than I imagined, but just as clean and elegant, which is at odds with what they send through your mind as you consider them. Parker is a genius with her own editing. She chooses objects and words that are evocative in particularly specific ways. My cine frames evoke a cluttered range of narratives. Is this bad? I think people’s heads are generally cluttered with narratives that operate in a very organic UN-elegant way. All the same, I wish I had Parker’s clarity of thought. I think it is her method that is personal to Parker, not her subject matter. The works in this show are examples of her ideas and process, and I think the most personal thing about them are that they illustrate her sense of fun and the ridiculous.
The Whitworth has reopened this February after a huge refurbishment and this was Saturday, so the gallery was heaving. It was wonderful to see so much of Parker’s work in one place, and discover new pieces.
I had never come across her installation, Jerusalem, 2015, which, together with her earlier related piece, Black Path (Bunhill Fields) 2013, as the catalogue says, “carry within… form and material the echo of the Jerusalem street and place it wherever and whenever, making those places reverberate with its peripatetic context.” (Balshaw, M., Tóibin, C., Griffiths, M. (2015) Cornelia Parker, The Whitworth, The University of Manchester.) Blake wrote the Poem Jerusalem about the myth that Christ visited Britain, and Parker had cast the path in Blake’s burial ground. Our mental vision of a burial ground is a deeply peaceful place. In the gallery’s Watercolours room in a neighbouring room, I found several Blake watercolours. We use Blake’s poem to symbolise a nostalgic comfortable feeling of national identity and place. And of course I was in the city of his Dark Satanic Mills… I’ve been to Jerusalem, the centre of so much conflict, and its paths are teeming with people, so it was stirring to see Parker’s casts hovering just off the floor, ready to trip the crowds rushing round this exhibition. These pieces were all about reverberation!
I think I have to include some sort of installation with my cine film project, but what?! More thinking needed.
One of the things that underlies my interest in the cine films I’m using in my project is that they evoke lots of narrators who are unlikely to be remembered over time. Parker is a female artist who manages to give life to perspectives and narratives that would otherwise be lost. Damp grimy Manchester was unusually resonant that Saturday!