Cornelia Parker – Cold Dark Matter

Cornelia Parker - Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View. A work in progress - 2016

Cornelia Parker - Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View. A work in progress - 2016

Widely considered her breakthrough show, Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View remains one of Parker’s most celebrated works to date. Subsequently Cornelia Parker produced a major solo exhibition, The Maybe, at the Serpentine Gallery in 1995 and was nominated for the 1997 Turner Prize. She continues to make sculptural, site-specific works that transform familiar, representational objects into abstracted forms. In recent years, her large-scale installations have included War Room (2015) at the Whitworth Gallery and Transitional Object (PsychoBarn) (2016), commissioned for the Roof Garden of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Since her 1991 exhibition at Chisenhale Gallery, Parker’s complex and moving work has earned her recognition as one of Britain’s leading contemporary artists.

Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View opened to the public on 18 September 1991 at Chisenhale Gallery. The installation consisted of a garden shed and its miscellaneous domestic contents, which had been blown up by the British Army at the artist’s request. After this brutal yet controlled act, the altered objects were suspended in a state of collective flux. Encircling a single light bulb, the constellation of debris created a dramatic shadow play on the surrounding gallery walls. For Cornelia Parker, the garden shed represented a “reservoir of stuff,” operating as a metaphor for psychological baggage. The explosion formalised Parker’s emotional investigation, causing a devastating transformation of the physical objects. This act, at once destructive and productive, referenced the cosmological theory of the Big Bang.

Parker’s Anniversary Edition comprises three black and white photographs of domestic objects: a hot water bottle, a sun parasol and a record player. The images, each depicting a component of Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View, have been carefully selected by the artist. The original photographs were shot by Hugo Glendinning, in order to document the process of producing the work. They were taken at Chisenhale Gallery prior to the elements being suspended in the final presentation of the piece, serving as an inventory of the blown-up contents of the shed.

For Parker, these photographs resonate with both past and present conflict. As she explains, “At the time, the background was the IRA bombing. It was 1991 and there were bombs going off in London. […] Now it’s a different kind of terrorist threat but in the end the results are the same.” [1] Like iconic war photography, these images have a timeless quality, depicting not one explosion but the universal idea of an explosion.

In conjunction with the launch of Cornelia Parker’s new edition and to celebrate the anniversary of her 1991 exhibition, Chisenhale Gallery Director Polly Staple interviewed Parker at her home in London. The interview, the latest in our Chisenhale Interviews series, is available to download at 

Medium: 3 photographs, Archival Pigment Prints on Hahnemühle Fine Art Pearl Paper
Size: 40.64 x 32.51cm each
Edition of 60 + 10 APs,
Signed and numbered
Special launch price: £1,100 (unframed)
Chisenhale Friends’ price: £990 (unframed)*

Cornelia Parker’s Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View. A work in progress(2016) will be exclusively launched at Frieze London on the Allied Editions stand. To purchase please email Ioanna Nitsou at

*Please note that Chisenhale Friends price is available to those who have supported the gallery via the Benefactors scheme. For more information on the scheme please click here.