Forthcoming conference paper
As part of the 35th AAH Conference "Intersections", at Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester
2 - 4 April 2009
Image: Ben Judd
Abstract: Being In Two Minds
This paper will examine the notion of being undecided or more particularly of ‘being in two minds’, questioning how this seemingly pejorative phrase might in fact function as a critical condition of both artistic practice and the process of thinking more broadly, and how this can then be located within a wider interdisciplinary interpretative (and theoretical) frame. In my recent research the notion of being undecided - through the tensions of deliberate or ‘critical’ inconsistencies within an artistic and writing practice, through contradictions or paradox, through undertaking an activity as a foil for something else, through occupying more than one or remaining in-between positions - has become increasingly fore-grounded. I am interested in how moments of doubt, indecision or deferral within practice perform the live event of thinking between different positions, how they operate at a threshold of potentiality before options are closed down or forever fixed one way or the other. Referring to work by Bas Jan Ader, Vlatka Horvat and Ben Judd, I want to further examine the different ways in which a sense of indecision, duality or even ambivalence is inhabited within these different practices and to what ends. Here, a form of secular agnosticism – the doubt that a particular question has a single correct answer or that a complete understanding of something can be attained – becomes tactically deployed as a way of refusing to commit to any singular position, disrupting the binary relationship of yes/no, either/or, by preferring the condition of ‘being both’.
The paper was proposed in response to the strand titled 'Inconsistency', which is convened by Steven Gartside, MIRIAD, Manchester Metropolitan University and
Sam Gathercole, Department of English, Queen Mary, University of London
In writing on art and architecture there is often an implicit assumption of a necessary consistency in the work addressed. A similar consistency is expected of the writing itself. Consistency is a measure regularly employed in locating value in the object or text. Security is sought in the consistent. All of this leads to the notion that work reflects essential and immutable elements that are directly identifiable with the author/producer, and this in some way assures authenticity. The pressure for consistency is one that is exerted by the terms of professionalism (whether that is the commercialism of the marketplace, or the structures that determine artistic, architectural and academic careers and reputations). The pressure for consistency is also one that might be seen to undermine the intersections of practice and theory that inform any action or statement (or, indeed, any gesture of refusal). Work that does not fit an established pattern can be sidelined as of little importance, even though it can often provide useful indications of thought process or method. It is also possible that inconsistency can be seen itself as a fundamental part of experimentation, and a productive way of exploring new ground.
The strand seeks to question the notion of consistency as an illusional, or possibly even delusional state. It will explore all aspects of inconsistency in the production of art and architecture, its critical and public reception, as well as in the different forms of writing about work.
- emma cocker
- 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 focuses on the process of artistic exploration and the performing of ‘thinking-in-action’ emerging therein; on 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.