Cornelia Parker, Cold Dark Matter, exploding the shed, Tate learning resource

What inspired Cornelia Parker to create an artwork based on an explosion?

In an interview with Tate curator Michaela Parkin, Parker suggested that an explosion was something she had wanted to do for a long time. To her, an explosion is an ‘archetypal’ image, familiar to us from childhood to adult life:

Somehow the idea and imminence of the ‘explosion’ in society seemed such an iconic thing. You were being constantly bombarded with its imagery, from the violence of the comic strip, through action films, in documentaries about Super Novas and the Big Bang, and least of all on the news in never ending reports of war.

Parker liked the idea of something that happened in a split second but that could also be made to have a durational aspect to it. As an MA student she had made a series of ‘wooden explosions’ – small models or representations of explosions, which she then left outside to weather and disintegrate. 

The explosion to Parker was the latest in her series of orchestrated ‘cliched cartoon deaths’. She had previously steam-rollered silver objects for Thirty Pieces of Silver, and had coins run over by a train for Matter and What it Means.