INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Londonist MAY 16, 2015 - by Zoe Craig
SOMEONE'S EMBROIDERED MAGNA CARTA'S WIKIPEDIA PAGE
You can't update this Wikipedia entry - artist Cornelia Parker unveiled a new artwork inspired by the Magna Carta at the British Library this week.
It's a thirteen metre long embroidery of the charter's Wikipedia page, complete with immaculate blue 'links', 'references' and beautifully rendered images. At first, the idea seems bonkers - why make an instantly outdated replica of a webpage? But after the initial visual shock (it's huge; and, for those of us used to browsing Wikipedia on our phones, incredibly unwieldy, almost too large to comprehend), various brilliant threads of meaning and nuance unravel. It's a thought-provoking achievement.
Parker took a screenshot of the regularly updated and popular Wiki page on June 15 last year, the seven hundred and ninety-ninth anniversary of the famous thirteenth century treaty. After printing it onto eighty-seven different sections of fabric, she sent the pieces off to two hundred carefully chosen people to stitch the words, images and symbols.
"I liked the idea of grabbing this moment and immortalising it," she explained at the launch event. "Wikipedia is a kind of embroidery. It's very subjective and democratic, with many contributors. Anybody can add their bit."
The bulk of the work was completed by thirty-six prisoners from thirteen different jails under the charity Fine Cell Work; the Embroiderers' Guild, alongside embroiderers from the Royal School of Needlework created the dazzling pictures and emblems in their own highly skilled style.
"I've had letters from prisoners who said they'd been happy to be involved in something historical rather than sewing cushion covers," said Parker. She explained that many of them had never seen a Wikipedia page, as they have no internet access.
Other contributors were carefully selected for their connection to civil liberties and the law. Shami Chakrabarti stitched 'Charter of Liberties', Baroness Doreen Lawrence added 'justice', 'denial' and 'delay', while Lord Judge and Lady Judge filled in 'Habeas Corpus', which had been rejected by one of the many prisoners. Julian Assange embroidered the word 'freedom' in the Ecuadoran embassy in London, while Edward Snowden added 'liberty' from Moscow.
Other famous names involved include Antony Gormley, Brian Eno, Caitlin Moran, Germaine Greer, Jarvis Cocker, Mary Beard and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. Author Philip Pullman needleworked the word 'Oxford' and Jarvis Cocker added 'common people' (what else?). Parker herself claimed 'prerogative', as is her prerogative.
Look carefully and you can spot Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger's blood after he pricked his finger while working on his chosen phrase, 'contemporary political relevance'.
The creation is a remarkable thing: an ephemeral Wikipedia page about Magna Carta, an enduring cornerstone of our civil liberties, has been transformed into something beautiful, tangible, endlessly durable. There's something medieval in the media used, a throwback to the Bayeaux Tapestry, perhaps. And yet its instantly recognisable font and colour scheme anchors it firmly in the now. Will it, like its subject, be studied in eight-hundred years' time?