Cornelia Parker OBE, RA is an English sculptor and installation artist born 1956.
In a series entitled Pornographic Drawings 1995–2006, Parker acquired pornographic videotapes that had been confiscated and shredded by Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise in Cardiff, Wales, and extracted the ferric oxide component from the film, suspending it in a solvent to form a liquid and applied it to sheets of white wove paper. She then folded each piece of paper down its centre so that the ferric oxide ink printed itself on both sides, creating a mirror image, after which she unfolded and flattened out the paper.
Parker has made several works that involve items confiscated by Customs and Excise stating in 2013 that she is interested in the way in which such authorities ‘block objects on behalf of society, denying access to what we can import, own, inhale, imbibe or indeed look at’. She originally conceived of re-editing the cut-up pornographic videotapes into a film, but instead chose to use them to make Rorschach drawings – abstract symmetrical ink blots that are presented to patients undergoing psychoanalysis for interpretation as a means of revealing their subconscious thoughts and desires. In 2013 Parker spoke of the chance connection between the erotic nature of the original videotapes and the sexual, although abstract, forms seen in the drawings:
“In psychology, Rorschach blots are used to reveal information about the personality of a person through their interpretation of abstract shapes. Somehow, my blots turned out to be particularly explicit, betraying their figurative origins.”
Describing these works on the occasion of their first exhibition in the show Avoided Object at Chapter in Cardiff in 1996, Parker emphasised that they remain open to many different interpretations:
“I didn’t dictate what images appeared. I selected the particular set to be in the show because I felt that they worked as ‘pornographic drawings’, but of course they’re very innocent. A child could look at them and see something quite benign. Somebody saw them before they were installed, he didn’t know what they were and said ‘Oh God, they’re disgusting!’. He thought somebody had pressed their body against the paper and that they were body prints.”
Cornelia Parker’s compelling transformations of familiar, everyday objects investigate the nature of matter, test physical properties and play on private and public meaning and value. “Sometimes my process seems very scattergun,” Parker says, “but I never worry whether it is all going to link up. And I don’t care if people don’t make all the same connections as me.” She rather hopes they make patterns of their own. “I want the work to be dead simple and not really polemical. I want it to be read by more than just a small target audience. I want to be porous and provocative.”