I’m still interested by this reconstruction thing. I’m interested by the idea of there having been an event, a moment, something, and someone taking whatever traces of that which there may be and assembling them in a manner offering us a fresh (also dead?) angle on it. I’m reminded, funnily enough, of Damien Hirst saying we have to kill something and put it in a tank in order to look at it. By that point, of course, it’s long since ceased to be the thing that really interested us.

My previous post about the British Museum touched on this. We can look at the chess sets of days gone by but what can we know about the conversations people were having when they were playing chess? Would we be better off looking at ourselves to answer that? Or was their consciousness massively different to ours? I can’t help but feel that over the past thirty years – ten years even – consciousness has changed. The way people see life and the world has changed. Mobile phones, the growth of the internet, the increasing choice in varieties of porridge; all of these things are changing us. I watch my own mind and the way I react to the films I watch and I’m sure I see things more meta-textually than people did twenty years ago. Maybe I’m completely wrong. Looking at the teenagers I know, though, they seem to be another step on from me. It’s not that I think I’m from this generation that invented sex, rock ‘n’ roll and anything daring. Things are always changing. People react differently. So what did anglo-saxon consciousness look like? I can’t realistically answer this question, just like i can’t answer many others.

One artist who does offer a route into this problem is Cornelia Parker. I’m especially taken with her piece ‘Einstein Abstract’, which consists of small details of a blackboard used at a 1915 lecture by Albert Einstein. The board has been wiped off but some of the traces of chalk remain. I sit looking at it wondering what he said. What equations did he write on the board? How did his audience feel as he told them of his world changing thoughts. These thoughts he was speaking of did change our view of the world; then subsequently the world itself.

einstein abstract by cornelia parker

The Science and Society website says of an exhibition of this work that “The artist is fascinated by the idea of animating and transforming historical objects and representing them in a way that sparks the imagination of the viewer.”

She’s possibly more famous for suspending things in mid air. Here are a couple of good examples of this. The first one is of fragments of a church hit by lightning. The second is of fragments of the cliffs at Beachy Head in Sussex. A chunk of cliff fell off. This is the remnant.

Fragments of a church hit by cornelia parker

I love the simplicity and the discipline of the presentation here. They’re so squarely done. I feel like I can appreciate them as beautiful items in themselves, purely abstractly as sculpture. It also gives a solid ground from which to take in her theoretical concerns.

Fragments of a part of a cliff that fell from Beachy Head  assembled by Cornelia Parker

Here’s a link to the Tate website talking about Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View. It details the process of making the work as well as the finished thing. Indeed, the process is integral to the piece, bearing in mind she’s looking at the controlled explosion of a garden shed. The end result is the documentation of the explosion with the end result assembled in the space.

Here’s a bit of text from the site that I like.

What does the title mean?
‘Exploded View is a kind of technical term, which you get in, say car manuals or motorbike manuals or sewing machines. It will show you an exploded drawing of the piece of machinery to show you how it works. So it’s a diagram or a technical term for a diagram really and so, and everything’s labelled in the ‘Exploded View’ drawings in these manuals to tell you what each part does, so it’s a kind of way of mapping and understanding something. Cold Dark Matter, the other part of the title is stuff in the universe that you can’t measure, it hasn’t yet been measured this material that a lot of the universe is made up of that we can’t map.’

Obviously, I love the bit about dark matter. It becomes reminiscent of the big bang, but freeze framed. The one thing I’m a bit disappointed about is the fact that I can’t see the Shockwave version on my computer for some reason. I like that juxtaposition between the mysteriously cosmic and the completely mundane. That wellington boot is dark matter? Yet the way ordinary things get invested with so much emotional power is mysterious isn’t it? How does that happen? How can we map that? Cornelia Parker doesn’t suggest she can answer this question but at least she helps us to ask it.

My project is reaching for this. Obviously, a history of the word all is impossible. I could put together the bare details of the etymology but to perfectly honest they’d bore me. There’s something happening every time someone says the word that’s just incredible. The fact that we can make a sound or set of shapes that is capable of conveying so much is incredible. I think there’s something at the root of that which is beyond mysterious. This isn’t really expressed by a map or chart of etymological movements.

Daniel Spoerri has a similar approach. He owned a restaurant in which he would stop people from eating their food near the end of their meal, send them away, glue the leftovers to the table, then hang it on the wall. imagine being a customer in that restaurant. It would inevitably make you look at the finished piece in a different way, particularly if there were an unexpected spillage or an odd object on there. His most famous work is perhaps An Anecdoted Topography of Chance in which he lists and describes the objects on the table in the room in which he was staying, also telling the viewer how he came to own the item. An unassuming picture of the quotidian details of his life develops. It gives a nice look at how his attachments to these ordinary objects have arisen, which leads on in a way from the Exploded View by Cornelia Parker.

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