Cornelia Parker’s 2005 Rorschach (Endless Column 1) captures my attention every time I enter the small chapel gallery on the Modern’s first floor and peer through the opening to my left, into an even more intimate gallery space where Parker’s piece hovers and gently sways a few inches above the granite floor. For me it is an eye-popping, knee-buckling sculpture that grabs my breath a bit. It consists of 14 silver plated objects crushed by a 250 ton industrial press. Each piece hangs from the ceiling on wire or filament line that when viewed in mass become a translucent cloud or light fog that makes the space seem a little thicker than the clean, defined space held between the horizon line of the silver pieces and the floor.
Since the middle of last week, Rorschach (Endless Column 1) has captured my imagination as well as my attention. I have been more acutely aware and fascinated by its flattened state. It has brought to mind random things found flattened in the world. Specifically flattened objects or beings observed on the street or sidewalk and considered in passing, along with their possible stories. Things that have moved from vertical to horizontal like Parker’s silver trophies, vases, and candle sticks, having the breath squeezed out of them, expelling air and folding in on themselves. Some of these, as with Parker’s pieces, look as though they are hugging themselves, getting to know their parts. Like the contorting poses in yoga that forcefully introduce distant body parts to each other. Was the lip of Parker’s silver pitcher aware or its foot before the violent act of the press forced them into such intimate contact? Sometimes the random items or beings found flattened in the world have actually melded into their environment, becoming one with it and hardly recognizable. Other times they sit isolated like a contained spill almost floating above the ground beneath. The latter is of course the case of Parker’s pieces that have collapsed, caved in, moved out from the point of pressure and become all together new forms while retaining their original identity to some extent.
I know that Parker has played with the notion of cartoon death by steam rolling, exploding and throwing items off cliffs and that this is a valid and entertaining way of thinking about Rorschach (Endless Column 1). It also adds a humorous perspective on the various flattened things we come across in the world. In going back to visit Rorschach (Endless Column 1) as I was obsessing on the element of flatness or the act of flattening, I thought again about Parker’s cartoon deaths. And in considering death, I realized that this sculpture has a relationship with something else that has been occupying my attention and even my imagination this week, the death and funeral of Senator Edward Kennedy. Looking again at the individual pieces perfectly aligned, working together to create a sense of stillness despite their minute movement, I saw the sculpture for the first time as lying in repose, quietly operating as a memory of the life each object had lived, the purposes they had served, and the stories that surrounded them. Like their counterparts in the world, these 14 silver plated objects can be considered but not fully known by those who come across them in an intimate gallery space on the first floor of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.
In the process of considering Rorschach (Endless Column 1), my lighthearted wonderings that tied this work to curious findings in the world shifted in tone when I was reminded that we all eventually move from vertical to horizontal.
Post your own images of flatness no matter the tone and let’s see where this inquiry takes us. Here are a few ways to join the conversation: Post your image or images to facebook and tag us somewhere in the image, reply to us on twitter (@themodernfw), or post a link down in the comments. My image, from a sidewalk near Paco and John’s Mexican Diner: