Many Hands

With the help of prisoners, politicians and Brian Eno, Cornelia Parker says Happy 800th Birthday to the Magna Carta with an embroidered Wikipedia page at the British Library.

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In celebration of the Magna Carta’s 800th anniversary this year, British artist Cornelia Parker enlisted over 200 people to help create her latest work, Magna Carta (An Embroidery). The artwork recreates a screenshot of the Magna Carta’s Wikipedia page as it appeared on the document’s 799th anniversary last year, with the embroidery completed by a cross section of British society.

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Parker recasts an ancient document as a webpage, drawing attention to the Magna Carta’s influence on contemporary life as an early political doctrine. The Magna Carta’s Wikipedia page is frequently visited and incessantly amended according to the discussion surround its history. In stitching the page, Parker captures a moment in that 800-year-old debate. Plus, there’s something delightfully subversive about seeing a digital document rendered in thread and relocated to the physical realm.

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The work has been stitched by many hands, with much of the embroidery completed by prisoners around England as part of Fine Cell Work, an organization that trains prisoners in needlework. The list of contributors includes Julian Assange, Germane Greer and Brian Eno, alongside stitchers, like Ben and Rose, identified by first name only. Any suggestion of personal ownership is lost, or shared; the individuality of hand (stitched) writing is lost to the anonymity of Wikipedia’s sans serif typeface.

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Rolled out at nearly 13 metres long, the embroidered document is immense in both size and implication. It questions the relationship of individual to collective, digital to physical and past to present.


Cornelia Parker: Magna Carta (An Embroidery)

The British Library

Until 24 July 2015