0f earplugs and cocaine

CORNELIA PARKER wants to return meteorites into space and has got matey with HM. Customs.

Words Susanna Beaumont

A few weeks back. artist Cornelia Parker hit the headlines. She was in discussion with NASA. the heavyweight US space agency. Parker wanted NASA‘s collaboration in returning a meteorite to space. After a good deal of ifting and butting. NASA declined to cooperalc. Resilient in the face of refusal. Parker blithely says: ‘I am now going to talk to the Russians.‘

Parker has been described as the ‘obsessive transformer of debris'. She's the one who collected fluff from the Whispering Gallery of London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral to make earplugs a play on poetic irony'.’ The one who collected the charred remains of a lightening-struck Texan chapel. Suspended in cube formation at the recent Turner Prize show at London‘s Tate. it seemed a near-magical. fragrant you could smell the burntness -- resurrection of an ‘act of God’.

in Natural Science at Edinburgh’s Stills, Parker. along with artists Gerhard Lang and Alan Thomson. is showing her series of works Avoided Objects. ‘So much is done in the name of science. I am doing it in the name of art.‘ says Parker. who recently collaborated with the science journal Nature. For this she collected fluff from that unsung human collection point. the tummy button. Her sources were various professional groups. including the Navy.

All this may sound bizarre. but Parker’s work gives an intriguing twist to the mundane. the everyday detritus which barely gets a blink let alone a considered look in. Her installations in some ways resemble relics. captured for contemplation.

82 THE llST 23 Jan—S Feb I998

'So much is done in the name of science. i am doing it. in the name of art’. {orneiia Pt'iiittfi'

Cornelia Parker and her Measuring Niagara With A Teaspoon

One work that got thousands contemplating was Parker’s collaboration with actress Tilda Swinton. shown at London’s Serpentine Gallery in I995. Encased in glass. the porcelain complexioned. elegant limbed Swinton slept as viewers peered at her. The work resonated with references of princesses caught tip in fairy tales. It was fantasy made flesh.

Other works by Parker reverberate with harsher

issues. Her Embryo Firearms (on show at Stills) are Colt .45 revolvers frozen in their development. Harmless perhaps. but their impotence is startlingly powerful.

At 41. Parker perhaps can‘t be cordoned off into the young Brit artist pack currently in the Cool Britannia ascendancy. but having been shortlisted for last year's Turner Prize and with many column inches devoted to the NASA story. she is currently in high profile. Part of her work‘s appeal is that it shows curiosity. She gives grown-up minds the opportunity to imagine and take a different. more circuitous route around the everyday. She unravels wedding rings into thin whispers of gold thread and convinces HM. Customs to hand over incinerated finds of cocaine.

There is also wit. When she talks of her work she frequently giggles. The time. for example. when she had to explain to custom officials at Connecticut why she was carrying half-made Colt .45 revolvers. There followed a lengthy chat about the powers of representation.

With Parker. you can't help but feel there is a touch of

the mischievous. a delight in unsettling. in disturbing convenuon.

Yet Parker doesn’t deal in just short-term sniggers. ln Parker‘s world and you get the sense that she really does consider the world -- everything can be investigated. For Negatives Of Sound. Parker went along to London’s Abbey Road Studios and asked for the black. curling vinyl residue from record grooves. Who else has given the time of day to the fallout from LPs when they are thumbing through their record collection?

Natural Science is at Stills, Edinburgh, Wed 28 Jan-Sat 21 Mar. Cornelia Parker will discuss her work at The Royal Museum Of Scotland, Edinburgh, Tue 27 Jan. 2pm. For further details of the talks programme see art listings.


Overheard from behind the installation.

CALLUM INNES HAS 3 new show at his London gallery, the Frith Street Gallery. The Edinburgh artist know for his abstract paintings, in which is dissolved away by the use of turps, is showing a new body of work. Asked if it is to be seen in Scotland, Innes wryly commented that his art is always criticised on home territory. Shame! The show runs until 5 March.

A NEW VISUAL ART SPACE opens this month in Inverness. art.tm, a £500,000 Lottery-funded project, is a redevelopment of the former Highland Printmakers Workshop and Gallery. Edinburgh-based architects Charlie Hussey and Charlie Sutherland are the team behind the project and to kick off the new venue artists have been commissioned to make series of multiples. Included are books resembling beer mats that will be distributed to local drinking holes and a limited edition of Y-fronts imprinted with the slogan ‘new pants for a new Scotland’.

THE WAITING GAME continues at Glasgow's CCA. Last week a presentation was made to the Scottish Arts Council (SAC) on proposals to enlarge and update the present Sauchiehall Street venue. The outcome of CCA's £7.8 million National Lottery bid is expected shortly. The SAC’s full council is due to discuss the bid on Thursday 29 January when a decision is expected.

MEANWHILE THE END of January will also see the SAC's announcement of funding to clients. But cash is tight. The SAC was recently told to expect {26,997,000 in Government funding for 1998/9. This, according to the SAC, means that over the past five years their grant has fallen by around £2 million in real terms.

IT'S GOOD TO TALK, we are often told, and Edinburgh’s Stills and Collective galleries are taking the initiative to get artists chatting. A series of informal talks are to take place to enable artists to discuss their work and get reactions from their audience. The first talk takes place on Monday 16 February at 6.30pm at Stills with Donald Urquhart and Judith Spark.

Detail of Inverness’s new arts venue art.tm