Culture, Entertainment, Manchester, Review

Review: Cornelia Parker: Verso @ The Whitworth

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By Grace Atkinson
Images courtesy of The Whitworth


When I was young, my mum took me to see what I will always remember as ‘the exploding shed’ at the Tate, in London. It was actually Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View, an incredible installation by Cornelia Parker. Fragments of a shed (blown up, under Parker’s instruction, by the British Army) suspended individually from the ceiling as if caught in mid explosion, a light in the middle creating dramatic shadows across the walls. Parker’s piece left a lasting impression, so I was excited to see her talk at The Whitworth, for the private view of Verso last night.

Parker explained her love for the ‘underbelly’ of things, the ‘flip side to every day matter’, and guided us through her past works. One exhibition named Stolen Thunder displayed the polishing cloths of famous people’s silverware. The tarnish stains from Charles Dickens’ knife, Henry VIII’s armour, and Guy Fawkes lantern, were framed to make prints of the movements from history’s ghosts.

In Room for Margins Parker exhibited the canvas backings of paintings by J. M. W. Turner. Though each canvas had the individual history of whichever Turner painting it once lived under, each one had the same stain at the bottom caused by the flooding of the Tate in 1928. This shared experience between each canvas marks a history on top of history.

Parker even took us through some of the photos off her iPhone, many of which showed the back of heads, sculptures and scaffolding. At galleries, she takes multiple images of the back of people as they observe whatever artwork. The viewer becomes part of a new work about the relationship between an artwork and the gaze its subject to.

Verso is an extension of Parker’s fascination for the underbelly, tens of framed button cards, turned face-down to allow the hand-stitched backing to become the focus. From the front, these cards are identical in their linearity, but the random patterns created by the needlework are an insight into the minds of each individual worker, what Parker called ‘found drawings’. Its an incredible way to observe the human pulse behind an object, and I’ve come away from the evening trying to find other clues to the hidden lives behind every day matter.


You can view Cornelia Parker’s Verso exhibition at The Whitworth from June 16 – November 5 and find more details here.

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Grace Atkinson

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