Emma Cocker is a writer-artist based in Sheffield and Associate Professor in Fine Art at Nottingham Trent University. Operating under the title Not Yet There, Cocker's research enquiry focuses on the process of artistic endeavour, alongside models of (art) practice and subjectivity that resist the pressure of a single, stable position by remaining wilfully unresolved. Her mode of working unfolds restlessly along the threshold between writing/art, including experimental, performative and collaborative approaches to producing texts parallel to and as art practice. Cocker's recent writing has been published in Failure, 2010; Stillness in a Mobile World, 2010; Drawing a Hypothesis: Figures of Thought, 2011; Hyperdrawing: Beyond the Lines of Contemporary Art, 2012; Reading/Feeling (Affect), 2013; On Not Knowing: How Artists Think, 2013; Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line, 2017; The Creative Critic: Writing as/about Practice, and as a solo collection entitled The Yes of the No, 2016.

Things We Lost in the Fire

Things We Lost in the Fire
Leicester City Art Gallery
7 Mar — 14 Apr 2007


Image: Ruth Claxton: Lands End

"When the body is cremated, there are still certain things that might withstand the fire. Though the familiar exterior will undoubtedly be lost; hidden relics may emerge in the flames. Gold crowns might be rescued from the settled ashes. The unseen pins and staples that have until now held the body in place can be collected in a small pot and stored away. Prosthetic hip joints gleam against the hot coals like treasures gleaned from an abandoned ruin, like heirlooms salvaged from catastrophe. It is to this dust that we must return.

Trial by fire has come to mean a process of transition and change, a rite of passage where innocence is lost and maturity gained. It signals the wilful abandonment or loss of what is known; in order to wander, as though blindfolded into the unknown void beyond. Hermes is a broker between such worlds. Greek god of transitivity; of gaps and thresholds; of transformation and twilight zones: it is no coincidence that Hermes is also the finder of fire.

Hypothetically speaking, in the event of a house fire most people claim they would forfeit objects of material worth, in order to grasp from the immeasurable vault of sentimentality and from their cherished memory banks. Photographs perhaps are the objects most feared to be lost in the fire, for each abandoned film is like a chapter torn from a book and burnt; leaving behind only an incoherent and partial narrative. Fragile stories vanish forever in the flames. Past. Regret. Promise. Forgetting. Release. Odd words or phrases now float free from their former grammatical logic: a suspended sentence through which to rewrite a new beginning. Imagine the scene..."


This text is a response to Things We Lost in the Fire, an exhibition curated by Gordon Dalton, including the work of six UK artists - Ruth Claxton, Gordon Dalton, Lloyd Durling, Mark Gubb, Merlin James and Cecile Johnson Soliz.

See full text here