Cornelia Parker – I got lucky in Sydney

Cornelia Parker. Cold Dark Matter Installation.
Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View. Cornelia Parker. Photo by Tijana.
Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Blown up garden shed and contents, wire and the single light bulb.

Cornelia Parker is the world-renowned artist whose work I’ve wanted to see ever since I saw a photo of Subconscious of a Monument. Lady luck was on my side in Sydney; my visit coincided with her retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art, the first survey exhibition in the Southern Hemisphere. It was a feast for the eyes and a thought-provoking exhibition. I liked it so much that I went twice, two days in a row. There was so much to ponder about her powerful works – her ideas, approach, and process in her installations had a profound impact on me.

Cold Dark Matter

Tijana and Cornelia Parker. Cold Dark Matter Installation.
Tijana reflecting in front of Cold Dark Matter By Cornelia Parker.

One of the most important artists working today, Cornelia Parker is known for her transformation of everyday objects into unexpected, haunting scenarios – things are exploded, shot, turned back to front and rearranged in often surprising ways. Within her sculptures, installations, drawings, photographs, and films, Parker subjects hang at the very moment of their transformation. In that moment, they suspend in time and are completely still.

In the Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View, an ordinary garden shed has been blown up by the British Army. To illustrate, Parker reconfigured the structure into a mass of burnt wooden shards and household objects. Suspended from the ceiling with a single light bulb at the center, it casts fantastic shadows across the gallery walls and floor. First, you notice the exploded shed and your mind races to understand what was going on while you’re immersed by the dramatic shadows.

Cornelia Parker. Cold Dark Matter Installation in Sydney.
Details and shadows. Cold Dark Matter by Cornelia Parker. Photo by Tijana.

Cornelia Parker. Cold Dark Matter. Detail.
Observing the tiniest details is also completely captivating. Cold Dark Matter by Cornelia Parker Photo by Tijana.

Cornelia Parker’s work can be intimate as well as spectacular. Even her smallest works can be little mind bombs… 

Adrian Searle, The Guardian

War Room

Cornelia Parker. War Room Installation.
Tijana in the War Room by Cornelia Parker. Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Perforated paper negatives leftover from the production of remembrance poppies.

In her installation War Room, Parker salvages discarded strips of red paper from the Poppy Factory in Richmond, London. The Poppy Factory produces Remembrance Poppies to memorialize the Great War of 1914–18. The perforated paper has over 30,000 holes from removed poppy shapes; their absences recall human lives lost in conflict. It is a very poignant place when you understand what it means.

The impact of the installation comes slowly. At first, there is a stunning visual of a simple red temple-like room. The space is a double layer of salvaged material art to evoke a profound visual impact. Then, impact combines with the knowledge of how much blood was shed, the fragility of life, and how we remember the lost ones. Altogether, it’s a riveting and reflective experience.

I needed to take time to contemplate life and how this powerful installation impacted me. I thought about it for days.

Cornelia Parker. War Room Installation close up.
There are 2 layers of salvaged discarded strips of red paper from the Poppy Factory. The paper is perforated with holes where the poppy shapes have been removed. Their absences poignantly recall human lives lost in conflict. Photo By Tijana.

Cornelia Parker. War Room Installation friendly museum staff.
The museum has a very helpful and knowledgeable museum staff. If you are interested in valuable insights, then I encourage you to reach out and discuss the exhibition. Thank you wondrous MCA staff! Photo by Tijana.

Poppies and salvaged leftover materials. Photo by Tijana.

Subconscious of a Monument

The focal point of the Corneli Parker’s exhibition is Subconscious of a Monument. This large-scale installation utilizes soil removed from beneath the Leaning Tower of Pisa in order to prevent the building’s collapse. The powerful physical presence of the dried lumps of clay is matched by the weight of the material’s past life.

Cornelia Parker, Subconscious of a Monument Installation.
Cornelia Parker, Subconscious of a Monument. Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Earth excavated from underneath the Leaning Tower of Pisa to stop it from falling.
Photo by Tijana.

Subconscious of a Monument contains fragments of dry soil suspended on wires from the gallery ceiling. The scene provokes the imagination of how we can transform materials into possibilities. Visually, I loved watching the earth from different angles. Each view had something new to discover and to delight.

Cornelia Parker, Subconscious of a Monument. Museum Visitor.
Subconscious of a Monument. Cornelia Parker. Museum Visitor. Photo by Tijana.

Subconscious of a Monument.
Different perspectives offer different views. Photo by Tijana.

Cornelia Parker, Subconscious of a Monument.
Subconscious of a Monument. Cornelia Parker. Photo by Tijana.

Subconscious of a Monument. Different view.
Yet another view, more disperse. Photo by Tijana.

Subconscious of a Monument. Detail.
Close up. Photo by Tijana.

Thirty Pieces of Silver

Other highlights include Thirty Pieces of Silver, featuring thirty suspended pools of silverware. The materials were collected by friends, car boot sales and charity shops, then flattened by a steamroller. From silver plates, spoons, and candlesticks to teapots, cigarette cases, and even trombones, Parker transformed these very ordinary things into the new and extraordinary.

Cornelia Parker, Thirty Pieces of Silver
Cornelia Parker, Thirty Pieces of Silver. Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney. Silver-plated objects flattened by a steamroller suspended by wire. Photo by Tijana.

I find the pieces of silver have much more potential when their meaning as everyday objects has been eroded. Thirty Pieces of Silver is about materiality and then about anti-matter. In the gallery the ruined objects are ghostly levitating just above the floor, waiting to be reassessed in the light of their transformation. The title, because of its biblical references, alludes to money, to betrayal, to death and resurrection: more simply it is a literal description of the piece.

Cornelia Parker
perspective. Thirty Pieces of Silver
Thirty Pieces of Silver, different view. Photo by Tijana

Cornelia Parker, Exhibition. Thirty Pieces of Silver.
Cornelia Parker, Thirty Pieces of Silver. Photo by Tijana.

Detail. Thirty Pieces of Silver
Detail. Cornelia Parker, Thirty Pieces of Silver. Photo by Tijana

Cornelia Parker

Cornelia Parker is a worldwide recognized contemporary British sculptor who is known for her conceptual and installation art. This exhibition also offers many small exhibits that were as fascinating as her larger-scale work.

Cornelia Parker is the recipient of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE), bestowed by The Queen of England. Moreover, it’s a British Order of chivalry, rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organizations, and public service outside the civil service.

Working in a wide variety of media, Parker’s work features destructive amalgamations of household objects that are layered, broken, or repurposed into new structures. Numerous solo exhibitions around the world use her work as a focal point. Notable institutions include the Tate Modern, Serpentine Gallery in London and the ICA Boston.

Where to See It – Insider Tips

Cornelia Parker is on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia until the 16th of February 2020. Furthermore, two of her permanent works are now on loan for this exhibition and are often presented at the Tate Museum.

MCA Australia Address

140 George St
The Rocks
Sydney NSW 2000

Opening hours

Daily 10 am – 5 pm
Wednesdays 10 am – 9 pm

If you’re an art lover in Sydney, then the Museum of Contemporary Art is an amazing place to start your adventures. The entrance is free for their permanent collection.


MCA Cafe is a rooftop art gallery restaurant and Sculpture Terrace with the amazing views of the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. If you need a little art break, then I highly recommend visiting the Cafe between exhibitions for some coffee, wine, and food.

More on Instagram

You can see more images and videos from this exhibition on my Instagram and in my Instagram stories

Cornelia Parker, Subconscious of a Monument. Parting view. Photo by Tijana.

Where Is It?


  • Ilmari

    This is something I want to see. It is unlike anything I have imagined.

    • zestandcuriosity (author)

      I am so glad that you are interested to see it. Her thought process and realization is incredible. Thank you – it is truly a must see if you have a chance.

  • ALabz

    Great content! Super high-quality! Keep it up! 🙂

    • zestandcuriosity (author)

      Thank you so much! I am glad you are enjoying it. My pleasure. More cool posts to come. Stay tuned.

  • Kata

    I really loved the first one, the explosion. It was visceral, it was clear, and when I saw it, that word came to mind “it’s like an explosion”. I kept thinking the pieces were going to move, expand outwards, so well they were configured to capture this idea. And the shadows — oh, that could be a shadow motion image! Like an old movie, capturing the shadows of a wreckage on the walls. The feeling of motion was there. I really wish, and aspire, to be able to capture something like that one day. Thank you for posting on this; I am glad that I have seen that first picture. It is a memory to draw from.

    • zestandcuriosity (author)

      I am so glad you liked it. It is such astonishing exhibition. I am glad that it moved you.

      Also the poppies in the War Room and what they represent. The lives lost in the World War. I was thinking it is such a gracious and incredible way to honor through the art lives lost and to appreciate their sacrifices. It was a very poignant place and installation. With a very powerful message.

      I appreciate your sharing your thoughts.

      Each piece had a message. The shed, for me, was about the transience of time. We so rarely see any moment frozen in time in a non-photographic way. To create that was a very complicated process, and even to assemble and reinstall each piece in the exact way as it was, it is even more challenging. I spoke with a museum staff how complicated the process was to make it as it was, and every object needed to be placed in the exact place. I was astonished that somebody could give us such a gift to really see that moment of change. It made me think about so many moments in life. Can we ever do it in a real-life? To pause time?

      And if we could, what would we do for it? I had so many questions after I saw this exhibition, and each piece made me think about so many things this exhibition had represented for days.

    • zestandcuriosity (author)

      I really loved how you described your experience. Thank you so much for sharing it. I love the part about shadows. It was so poetical they way you had described it. I saw it again differently through your words.

  • sazehgar

    The creator shows the momentary affect
    This work is interpreted in the mind of every audience
    I think humans, like this explosion and like galaxies, are moving away from each other

    • zestandcuriosity (author)

      Thank you for this beautiful and thoughtful comment. Yes we all interpret the adresa work. That I always find so fascinating.

      This was very thought provoking exhibition- I went to see it twice, two days in a raw. Her smaller works are as fascinating as her bigger ones. All is about thought process and such an original ideas.

      • sazehgar

        Thanks for your interesting content
        I follow your posts

        • zestandcuriosity (author)

          It makes me really happy that you enjoy the various topics. Thank you for the support.

  • Siu Bally

    It’s really a cool and useful piece of information. I am glad that you shared this useful information with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

    • zestandcuriosity (author)

      Glad that you enjoyed it! It was a spectacular exhibition.

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