Cornelia Parker, 'Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View' 1991
Cornelia Parker
Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View 1991
© Cornelia Parker

Discussion-based activity

Practical tips

Gallery: Tate Modern
Materials: No additional materials required
Preparation: Please contact us to check if the artworks will be on display when you plan to visit. Email


For this 20-minute activity we focus on discovery. The activity is based around Cornelia Parker’s Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View 1991. It will help you explore the following ideas with your group:

  • what the group notices about the suspended objects
  • what the objects remind them of
  • what they notice about the atmosphere in the room


Before entering the room, ask people to divide into three groups – four or five people per group (or smaller according to total group size):

  • Ask group 1 to notice what materials have been used
  • Ask group 2 to notice what has happened to these materials
  • Ask group 3 to notice the atmosphere in the room

Each group then goes into the room, space permitting, to make their observations. After 5 minutes, ask everyone to reconvene in the room next door as there is more space to talk (plus limits on numbers of visitors in the Parker room makes discussion difficult). Share everyone’s discoveries by taking each group’s task in turn and discussing their ideas (approx. 10 minutes).

After sharing the discoveries you could introduce the idea of installation and discuss:

  • What does the term installation mean? We could describe it above as an artwork that is a whole environment. What other ideas do people have?
  • What is the difference between a single artwork hung on a wall and a whole room or space that is an artwork? What does the group think is different about the atmosphere in an installation as opposed to a work hung on the wall?

Other artworks you could look at

  • Mark Dion is another contemporary artist who uses everyday materials. In the work Tate Thames Dig 1999 he worked with a team of volunteers to make a collection of found objects.
  • Look at the work by Kurt Schwitters, who explored the potential of mainly two-dimensional found materials in collages he made during the first half of the twentieth century. 

Follow-up activities

Collecting and collections 

These artworks use collections of everyday things which can remind us of our own personal collections of shoes, toys, music etc. Discuss the idea of organising a display at your centre on the theme of collections with a shelf or table top for each person. How will people decide on the method of display? Perhaps through colour or size? What else?


Focus on the materials in each artwork (make a list if you like) and start your own collections of recycled packaging as materials for artworks. This can support art projects about ideas relating to recycling, and encourage your group to be inventive in choosing materials.


Groups have focused on the atmosphere in the Parker installation and have made an artwork back at their centre which includes a strong light source. Photographic lighting or a slide projector can be used to cast shadows on everyday objects, then the group can note how the mood of these objects changes. They can also make large charcoal drawings of these shadows, or document them using a stills or video camera.