Magna Carta (An Embroidery) is a 2015 work by English installation artist Cornelia Parker. The artwork is an embroidered representation of the complete text and images of an online encyclopedia article for Magna Carta, as it appeared in English Wikipedia on 15 June 2014, the 799th anniversary of the document.
The hand-stitched embroidery is 1.5 metres wide and nearly 13 metres long. It is a response to the legacy of Magna Carta in the digital era and Parker has referred to it as "a snapshot of where the debate is right now", the result of all open edits by English Wikipedians up to that date. It was commissioned by the Ruskin School of Art at the University of Oxford in partnership with the British Library, after being chosen from proposals from a shortlist of artists in February 2014.
Parker used a screenshot from the 15 June 2014 English Wikipedia article for Magna Carta and printed it onto fabric. Like English Wikipedia, the embroidery was created through the collaboration of many individuals. It was divided in 87 sections and sent to 200 individuals who each hand-stitched portions of the artwork. She sought the collaboration of people and groups that have been affected by and associated with Magna Carta. The majority of the text was sewn by prisoners. Members of the Embroiderers' Guild stitched the images, with at least one embroiderer selected from each region of the UK. Many celebrities and public figures also contributed, stitching phrases or words of special significance to them. Parker has represented the work as "Echoing the communal activity that resulted in the Bayeux Tapestry, but on this occasion placing more emphasis on the word rather than the image, I wanted to create an artwork that is a contemporary interpretation of Magna Carta."
The work includes a tea stain from a prisoner and a spot of blood from Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, who accidentally pricked his finger while sewing.
Magna Carta (An Embroidery) is part of an exhibition celebrating the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. It was displayed in the Entrance Hall of the British Library from 15 May until 24 July 2015, at the Whitworth Gallery August - November 2016, and in the Blackwell Hall of the Bodleian Library, Oxford from 11 November 2015 to 3 January 2016, touring other United Kingdom locations in the rest of 2016 and 2017.
Parker invited some 200 people to hand-stitch portions of the work including prison inmates, civil rights campaigners, MPs, lawyers, barons and artists. Much of the work was done by 36 prisoners from 13 different prisons in England, under the supervision of the social enterprise Fine Cell Work. Members of the Embroiderers' Guild contributed the images as did students from the Royal School of Needlework and the embroidery company Hand & Lock.
Six students from La Retraite Roman Catholic Girls' School, London were the youngest contributors to the work.
Parker invited royalty to contribute to the work, but they declined. She said that right-wing people were more likely to decline; both Gordon Brown and Alex Salmond also declined to contribute.List of contributors
Julian Assange – "freedom"
Shami Chakrabarti – "Charter of Liberties"
Jarvis Cocker – "common people" for the song of the same name
Brian Eno – "in perpetuity"
Anthea Godfrey (Embroiderers' Guild) – image of Pope Innocent III
Igor Judge, Baron Judge and Lady Judith Judge – "Habeas Corpus"
Christopher Le Brun – "folio"
Doreen Lawrence, Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon – "justice", "denial" and "delay"
Eliza Manningham-Buller – "freedom"
James McNeill QC - "Abbots - witnesses"
Cornelia Parker – "prerogative"
Janet Payne (Embroiderers' Guild) – image of John of England signing Magna Carta
Philip Pullman – "Oxford"
Alan Rusbridger – "contemporary political relevance"
Edward Snowden – "liberty"
Clive Stafford Smith – stitched his contribution while visiting a client at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp
Peter Tatchell – "democracy" (shared with Parker)
Jimmy Wales – "user's manual"
Sayeeda Warsi, Baroness Warsi – "freedom"
Baroness Shirley Williams
Students from La Retraite Roman Catholic Girls' School – "Salisbury Cathedral", "Durham Cathedral", "South Africa" and "Australia"