Flattening high tea


By Andrew Cornell Robinson

Cornelia Parker’s etiquette consists of irreversible compression and translation

Picture puzzles and riddles abound in “Rorschach,” the new Cornelia Parker installation at D’Amelio Terras Gallery. Parker’s work examines new territories by transforming the familiar.

“In Parker’s hands, nothing is stable,” a press release on the show states. “Objects fall apart, collide, combust, explode or are compressed to remerge as new and surprisingly beautiful forms.”

Specifically, Parker has blown up, with the help of British military personnel, garden sheds, and compressed sterling silver dinnerware. Symmetrical Rorschach-like compositions of flattened silver-plated objects are suspended just inches above the floor. This is how Parker creates the eventual quiet moments of contemplation.

As a whole, the installation has an ethos similar to “The Broken Kilometer” by Walter De Maria. Yet Parker’s work defies gravity and is imbued with a rich alchemical transformational process. For example, Parker begins with silver objects of desire, commemoration and wealth—candelabras, tea sets and platters—considered traditional class signifiers in her native Great Britain. These objects are then flattened and transformed with the help of an industrial press, “transgressing” their status as a precious talisman and undermining their elegance.

The artist states that she wants to “change their meaning, their visibility, their worth, that is why I flattened them…”

The work’s title is apt, in that an open-ended interpretation is left to the viewer. Yet each object retains a reference to its source and so it is easy to find allusions to Victorian notion of affluence lost through destruction and time. Rorschach then becomes a shorthand way of how the unknown is measured and personal histories and secrets are revealed.

By rearranging and manipulating materials Parker figuratively defines with visual language that which defies literal translation. The abstraction is breathtaking.

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