Cornelia Parker: The installation artist on mucking out pigs, blowing things up and Michael Gove's 'terrifying' cuts

 

I never got to play as a child All my spare time was spent working on my family's smallholding. It was a life of drudgery, really, planting vegetables, digging, mucking out the pigs; perhaps that's why I left for art school and became an artist – to work on stuff that had no [practical] use to it.

My father thought that what I was doing was useless Even when I took my parents to the Turner Prize show, in 1997 [when Parker was shortlisted for her work "Mass", which saw her construct an installation from the charred remains of a church that had been struck by lightning]: my father stood in the room and asked, "What do you think of this stuff then?" and belittled the responses of people coming in. I think he would have preferred it if I were a factory worker; he could have understood that.

Artists tend to want to be outsiders But I've enjoyed the frisson you get from working with institutions that don't conform to my views, such as the Army [which blew up a garden shed for her project Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View, in 1991], and the National Rifle Association. I've also been an academician [at the Royal Academy] for three years now. I'd reservations in the past about [being an RA academician] as I was worried about losing my autonomy. But when friends became members, I thought, why am I being so churlish?

The Royal Academy has regained its mojo In the 1950s and 1960s, top artists didn't want to be part of the Academy because it was outmoded, and until recently there was only one black artist. But there were 11 new members last year and the changes are gathering pace. And its artists are working in so many more ways than just painting, engraving and sculpting; in my room "Black and White" [which Parker has curated for this year's Summer Exhibition], there's some overtly political work in there about Michael Gove and his cuts to education.

Violence is part of everybody's life whether you like or express it, or not. My work utilises all the energies that I have and part of it is violent and I'd rather it be out than in. When I blew up a shed, I could touch the fragments, process them and hang them in a space and reanimate them; I was trying to control something you can't normally control.

If you cut art from school, you're going to have a lot more looted shops A lot of the most rebellious kids at school end up doing art, but if they've got nowhere for their energies to go, that energy will go somewhere else. In Newcastle, the arts budget has been cut massively and now 40 per cent fewer students at school have been doing GCSE art in the past three years, which is terrifying. Michael Gove is going to wreck the future of fine artists and our creative industries.

Living in a warehouse is great – but after a while you just want a garden I was living in Shoreditch, east London, for 20 years but it became a nightmare by the end; once the area had cachet, the developers and all the money people moved in, trying to get every last pence out of the place. By the end we were fighting though the graffiti tours, and my husband and I decided we just wanted some green space, to be near a good school, so we moved. I've realised I've become middle class, and that's really nice!

Cornelia Parker, 57, is a sculptor and installation artist best known for her works where she violently destroys objects and suspends the resultant debris. The RA Summer Exhibition, for which Parker has curated the 'Black and White' themed room, runs to 17 August (royalacademy.org.uk)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor