Election artist Cornelia Parker sees role more like ‘court fool’

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Cornelia Parker has been named Britain’s official election artist for 2017.

The sculptor and installation artist, whose best-known works involve blowing things up or squashing stuff, said it is “quite a responsibility” and that she sees her role more as the “court fool” among the politicians and press.

“I always love the court fool in Shakespearean times, in Henry VIII’s time, the fool can say all kinds of stuff that the other people can’t say so I’m hoping I might take that role.”

In the run-up to polling day she will travel across the UK to observe the electioneering – spending time with all the political parties as well as speaking to members of the public.

She is the first woman to be given the commission and the fifth artist to take up the position, following Adam Dant (2015), Simon Roberts (2010), David Godbold (2005) and Jonathan Yeo (2001).

Goodman Park polling station, Slough, 6 May 2010, by Simon Roberts. Pic: Parliamentary Art Collection WOA 7157
Image:
Goodman Park polling station, Slough, 6 May 2010, by Simon Roberts. Pic: Parliamentary Art Collection WOA 7157

“It’s quite a responsibility but I’m just not going to think about that.

“I’m just going to work in the way I normally work, which is to marinade myself in the material, and then in the middle of the night I’ll have a brainwave, I hope.”

Her selection is a bold move by the House of Commons. She is one of Britain’s most original and inventive artists, her work is often subversive and at times has been controversial.

In 2003, she angered art lovers by wrapping a mile-long piece of string around one of the best-known sculptures in Britain – Rodin’s The Kiss.

As an art installation in 2013, her work The Maybe saw actress Tilda Swinton sleeping for hours in a glass box.

And only last year, she put the barn from Psycho on top of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art – a statement on the American psyche during the US election.

Parker said “subversion and tragi-comedy” are common themes in her work.

“I think there’s also a satirical side and a political side.”

Actress Tilda Swinton sleeps in a glass box as part of an installation conceived by Cornelia Parker
Image:
Actress Tilda Swinton sleeps in a glass box as part of an installation conceived by Cornelia Parker in 1995

Crucially, one of the requirements of the commission is that she remains politically impartial.

“Brexit seems to be the dominant theme but there are also lots of things happening that are at critical points – the NHS, education, all kinds of things.

“I would like to somehow hear the voice of all kinds of people outside of the cities.”

Parker is yet decide what medium the finished work will take.

“I’m trying not to think of an end game yet because I haven’t even been out on the campaign trail.

“I feel like I’m going to be witnessing a lot of stuff and in a way I’m always led by my intuition so I’m sure it’ll crystallise into a definite form.

“I don’t know what that form will be – whether it’s a film or photography or sculpture or what – but I’m just going to let the material lead me to the work.”

Parker will be posting images on Instagram as electionartist2017 throughout the campaign.

Her finished work will join the Parliamentary Art Collection and is expected to go on show in September.



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