arts and design

On my radar: Cornelia Parker’s cultural highlights


The artist Cornelia Parker was born in Cheshire in 1956 and received an MFA from Reading University. She’s renowned for her large-scale installations – one early work, Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View, suspended the fragments of a garden shed blown up by the British army. Shortlisted for the Turner prize in 1997, she was elected to the Royal Academy in 2010 and awarded an OBE the same year. This month, Parker, who lives and works in London, features alongside other leading contemporary artists as part of cultural education charity Art UK’s auction fundraiser.

The Brilliant Abyss by Helen Scales book cover

1. Nonfiction

The Brilliant Abyss by Helen Scales

This is an amazing book all about the deep sea – what lives there and how they live. It’s full of creatures that glide eerily across the sea bed, and they live off something called marine snow: tiny specks of nutrient that filter down from the surface. Occasionally, a whale sinks to the bottom and that’s quite a big attraction. But it’s all very much threatened at the moment, in part because of deep-sea mining for rare-earth metals, to power our electric cars. Miners are releasing methane and carbon at terrifying rates. So it’s a great book, but towards the end the reality hits hard.

2. Instagram

Amy Sedaris

Amy Sedaris.
Amy Sedaris. Photograph: Gregory Pace/REX/Shutterstock

Amy Sedaris is an American comedian (sister of David) and her Instagram feed is hilarious. She finds the funniest video clips online and posts them. It’s a constant source of entertainment. It might be a cat video or, one of my favourites, a squirrel swinging from the bottom of a bird feeder – it goes round and round, faster and faster, and then flies off into the bushes. It just makes me laugh so much. She has a group of celebrity friends, such as Cindy Sherman, who make comments all the time, which is kind of fun, too.

Austerlitz by WG Sebald.
Photograph: Penguin

3. Fiction

Austerlitz by WG Sebald
I’ve had this book on my bedside for about 17 years and haven’t picked it up before now – I don’t know why I wanted to read it all of a sudden. It’s really quite remarkable. Austerlitz is the name of the main character and he was part of the Kindertransport, sent from Czechoslovakia during the second world war to live with a family in Wales. Later he becomes an architectural historian and tries to find out what happened to his parents. He’s recounting his story to the supposed author, who he meets over many years. I’m really enjoying it.

4. Film

The Present (2020)

The Present.
‘Almost like a parable’: The Present.

This is a short film by a Palestinian-British director called Farah Nabulsi. It’s only 24 minutes long and you can find it on Netflix. It’s like a haiku, focusing on the border between Palestine and Israel and encapsulating some of the tensions there are in the world. It’s about a father and daughter who cross the border to buy an anniversary present for his wife. I don’t want to give away what the present is, but the crossing back becomes more difficult than it should be. It’s very watchable, and very memorable – almost like a parable.

5. Song

Something on Your Mind by Karen Dalton

Karen Dalton
‘She has an amazing cracked, broken voice’: Karen Dalton. Photograph: Light in the Attic records

This is a song I really love, and it always has the same results, which is to set the spine tingling and hairs sticking up on end. People don’t seem to know Karen Dalton. She was very influential to musicians such as Nick Cave, Bob Dylan and Joanna Newsom. She died in 1993 of substance abuse and Aids-related complications aged 55. Something on Your Mind is very haunting and beautiful. She has an amazing cracked, broken voice. Jeff, my husband, who [like Dalton] is from Texas, first played it to me, and whenever I heard it I kept asking who it was. Now I remember her name.

Fresh Air
Photograph: NPR

6. Podcast

Fresh Air (NPR)

I’ve been listening to this for quite a long time. The host, Terry Gross, has the most hypnotic, velvety voice that instantly relaxes you. She asks her guests really difficult questions; they are usually so charmed by her that they answer them. She’s interviewed some amazing people – Aretha Franklin, Leonard Cohen, Doris Day – and some of them (like Norman Mailer) she interviews many times. I think she might have asked Hugh Grant, who I love, about his brush with the sex worker. That’s the sort of thing she could bring up, where others wouldn’t. You get a very good picture of whoever she’s interviewing.

7. Art

Rose Wylie’s Pineapple sculpture in Regent’s Park

Rose Wylie, Pineapple, 2020.
Rose Wylie, Pineapple, 2020. Photograph: Photo by Dan Bradica/Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner gallery

Rose Wylie is a wonderful painter. She’s 86 years old, and she won the John Moores prize in 2014, so she’s making it really late in life. This year’s Frieze Sculpture show in Regent’s Park [from 14 September] will include a sculpture she’s made of a pineapple. The pineapple figures in one of her paintings, so she’s plucked it out and made it a painterly sculpture. Perhaps it will make people look at her paintings if they haven’t already. She’s a talent to watch – a very old talent to watch, but going great guns at the moment.





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