Emma Cocker is a writer-artist based in Sheffield and Associate Professor in Fine Art, Nottingham Trent University. Emma's research focuses on artistic processes and practices, and the performing of ‘thinking-in-action’ therein. Her practice unfolds restlessly along the threshold between writing/art, including experimental, performative and collaborative approaches, alongside a mode of ‘contiguous writing’ — a way of writing-with that seeks to touch upon rather than being explicitly about. Her writing is 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, 2013; On Not Knowing: How Artists Think, 2013; Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line, 2017; The Creative Critic: Writing as/about Practice, and the solo collection, The Yes of the No, 2016. More recently, Emma trained to be a qualified yoga teacher, interested in how a heightened awareness of the body and breath, alongside meditation and attention practices, might be integrated into art-writing, artistic practice, pedagogy and research.

Project: Urban Retreat

I will be working with artist Sophie Mellor on a new piece of writing, as the basis for a 'Manual of Marginal Places', within the context of her project, Urban Retreat: Routes into Uneasy Landscapes .


13 September - 3 October 2010

Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria

Lottie Child , Emma Cocker, Sophie Mellor , Laura Oldfield Ford, Clare Thornton 

Urban Retreat is a series of artists commissions, activities and events reflecting on the use and value of urban/rural landscapes. It takes Henry David Thoreau's Walden as a starting point, using socialised seclusion and public interaction to investigate the local economic and ecological landscape of Barrow-in-Furness.

Barrow's unusual landscape charts its industrial past and economic decline alongside its reclamation by both nature and current regeneration schemes. The commissioned artists will examine the urban and rural spaces. Their aim, as artists have always done, is to record our enduring relationship with the land - yet they will do this in a variety of ways with a range of materials themed around the urban and rural. 

Sophie Mellor will spend two weeks as an urban wanderer relying on the kindness of strangers and the bounty of the land to house and feed her. Clothed in an especially designed survival jacket by Clare Thornton, she will place herself directly in Barrow's marginalised landscapes, investing in its use and beauty through her interactions with people and place. 

Around this central, durational performance, there will be a series of free public events and activities. Lottie Child will run a Street Training session, investigating how to traverse both industrial and rural Barrow. Lottie has developed Street Training as a method to directly engage people with their surroundings through creative and playful behaviour combining parkour, movement, singing, conversation, games.

 Martin Norris of South Walney Nature Reserve will lead a 'Nature Walk' of Barrow's wastelands, looking at how nature colonises land left fallow by industry.

 Laura Oldfield Ford will take participants on a drawing 'drift' (walk) around Barrow's sites of regeneration, using drawing to reassess and document how industry, politics and economics have impacted the land and its use. 

As well as making the survival jacket for Sophie Mellor's urban wander, Clare Thornton will run a 'Survival Bag' workshop where participants will be invited to make and customise a bag to carry the items they need to negotiate their environment. 

At the end of her urban wander, Sophie Mellor will take audiences on a walk through the different environments she encountered, telling stories of her encounters and offering tastes of the wild and scavenged food she found on the way. 

Barrow-in-Furness Library will be hosting the Urban Retreat Lending Library, where library users can borrow books donated by Urban Retreat artists and invited patrons, for the duration of the project. 

Writer Emma Cocker will be corresponding via post with Sophie Mellor during her urban wander, and the resultant new writing will form the basis of 'Manual for Marginal Places' to be published in Spring 2011.