On a balmy early October evening Cornelia Parker sat down in St Pancras International station, talking to Tim Marlow, Artistic Director at the Royal Academy, about her work and in particular how she works. She was talking to around 100 people from the UAL Central Saint Martins London and guests of the Royal Academy of Arts, but as the discussion progressed, members of the public who happened to be passing through the station stopped to look at the artwork, listen to the conversations and then ask questions - it was a truly public event.
Cornelia's One More Time is the third artwork to grace the Terrace Wires and the second time that she has worked in St Pancras - the previous time was in the 1980s. Then her work was very transitory - lasting only until a train pulled out of the platform. One More Time is also transitory in that it is only on the Terrace Wires for a few more weeks. It is a clock, identical in all respects to the permanent clock which hangs in the station - even made by the same people - except that Cornelia's artwork hangs about 16 metres in front of the permanent clock and that it is black where the station clock is white, and white where the other is black - it is, in effect, the photographic negative of the permanent version. Since one clock hangs in front of the other, there are places within the station where there appears to be a "clock eclipse" and others where the two clocks don't seem to be telling the same time - though they are of course. It is all about perspective.
As Tim asked questions and drew her out, Cornelia spoke of the various themes that she has pursued since she was a student - found materials - i.e. Items that she has seen as she walked through life or items she has recycled; destruction - e.g. blowing up of a shed with the Army to create Cold Dark Matter; inverse relationships; and time and space - with that obvious link back to One More Time.
She has also gloried in working across disciplines - she told us that she had never really felt a strong affinity with the arts programmes, even when she was studying fine art. Instead she wanted to understand how everyone saw the universe and very much enjoyed working with the scientists.
One other topic which Tim and Cornelia covered was inspiration - how does it come to an artist? Does it require research and preparation? Does it happen in an instant or does something emerge over many weeks, months or years? Cornelia said that she had seen David Batchelor's Chromolocomotion hanging on the Terrace Wires last year and felt that she didn't have anything to add. Then once, after getting off a Eurostar train and walking towards the clock at the end of the station, she suddenly realised that she could block out that clock with a reverse image of itself. So in this case the idea had come in an instant. In others, she plays with an idea in her head, looks for things to reflect that idea, and gradually the objects and the idea come together.
Towards the end of the question and answer session, members of the audience were urging me to retain One More Time within the station - perhaps just to add more and more works of art suspended permanently on wires high above all of the platforms. Tim argued for change - recognising that the beauty of programmes such as Terrace Wires is the lack of permanence - you can enjoy (or not) a piece of art for some time (in our case at St Pancras, about 6 months) and then there will be something else along. The notion of lots of different pieces of art is interesting, but for the time being at least, we'll stick to our guns and Terrace Wires will be a six monthly affair from April to the Autumn each year.
We look forward to welcoming you to St Pancras next April to see how the next artist interprets the space as part of our ongoing collaboration with the Royal Academy so that again we can Stop, Look and Listen whilst Tim talks to another artist about their work and their approach.