Emma Cocker is a writer-artist based in Sheffield and Reader in Fine Art at Nottingham Trent University. Operating under the title Not Yet There, her 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. Cocker’s work unfolds restlessly along the threshold between writing/art. Whilst embracing the potential of the essayistic (as a tentative effort or trial), her writing includes 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; and as a solo collection entitled The Yes of the No, 2016. She is currently a key-researcher on the project Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line, with the artistic research findings published as an accompanying artists' book/research compendium, 2017.

No Longer and Not Yet

The text below has been written for this year's NTU degree show catalogue.

"The conclusion is the event whose occurrence brings about the end; it is a point of resolution that draws the experimentation to a close. An answer has been found, a result gleaned, a decision made. Conclusions often rest upon the production of something definitive, something certain. They describe the final chapter of the thesis, which attempts to draw together the loose ends, to smooth out or reconcile the differences or inconsistencies within an argument or investigation. Here, the indeterminate or unruly meanderings of an enquiry become dutifully reined in or stilled, where the restless activity of a thinking process is required to steady itself, to fix upon its goal. Conclusions can terminate the trajectory of a given episode of time or line of narrative – they are the final scene; the end of an era, the protagonist’s last breath. However, within art practice conclusions are rarely definitive or final, but rather present as provocation for future action or as moments of pause within a never-ending permutational chain of possibilities. Enquiries become shaped into one form, before being collapsed back once again for the process to begin afresh. The fine art degree show itself should be seen in such terms – less a marker of closure as an opening out into the space of the future. It is a double-headed arrow – pointing back towards the creative labour of production and of thinking, and forward as a promise of what might still be to come. It signals and celebrates the results of an imaginative process that has already taken place but significantly is also charged with potential.

 

Strictly speaking, the degree show is not an ending at all, rather a space of transition, of new beginnings. It is the visual manifestation of a rite of passage according to whose terms art students exit the realm and restrictions of the university to navigate their way into the world beyond. The duration of the degree show is a zone of expectant limbo. We are between times no longer and not yet. However, this rite of passage is not just about the initiate (student) increasing their status on the hierarchical ladder of social standing, of graduating into the employment ranks of the ‘with honours’. Rather, an (art) education has the capacity to function in more critical terms. For social anthropologist Victor Turner, universities should be understood as ‘liminoid’ settings or as an ‘antistructure’ capable of generating alternative ways of being and thinking to the mainstream or habitual. Whilst the liminal experience often reinforces and works with existing social hierarchies, Turner argues that, “liminoid phenomena … are often parts of social critiques or even revolutionary manifestos … exposing the injustices, inefficiencies, and immoralities of the mainstream economic and political structure.”[i] Rather than being easily unquestionably assimilated back into the existing social order then, the critical subject produced through the liminoid experience has the capacity to conceive of things differently or invite change they have a transformative potential. It is this questioning potential that a fine art course hopes to nurture. Undoubtedly, there will be those for whom the degree show will function as the final conclusion to their practice, indeed those for whom the art degree itself is valued only for its transferable properties in an ever competitive job market. However, perhaps there will also be others for whom the experience will continue to function as a provocation or as the catalyst to go out and make things (differently)."




[i] Victor Turner, From Ritual to Theatre, The Human Seriousness of Play, (PAJ Publications, New York, 1982), pp.54-55