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 artistic processes and practices, 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 practice involves ‘contiguous writing’ — a mode of creative-critical writing that seeks to touch upon rather than being explicitly about. Her 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, The Yes of the No, 2016.

Publication: Making Room for Manoeuvre

Ways of Operating along the Margins

Guide against guidesBeating the bounds Skirting the centre
As needs musterKnowledge of the marginsRehearsing spaces
Finding the gapsOn being left openGet involvedDrift
GleanBe GuilefulBetween you and me

I am currently working on a text for the forthcoming publication, Manual for Marginal Places, which is being shaped around the following structure (above). This project extends the concerns and format developed within my earlier text The Yes of the No!, in order to reflect more specifically on how an inhabitation of 'margins' or the development of marginal practices might be used tactically to undercut the logic and values of the centre - where centre signals towards both the major (the dominant order) and the moderate (the medium, the mediocre, the middle-ground). The work draws on various user's guides or manuals including (amongst other things): Baden-Powell's Scouting for Boys, Michel de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life, Georges Perec's Species of Spaces and Other Pieces, Krauss/Bois Formless: A Users Guide, various philosophies that seem to offer pragmatic programmes for developing one's 'life as a work of art' through the cultivation of ethico-aesthetic 'ways of operating' (specifically Deleuze and Guattari's conceptualization of 'minor' practice) and work by Detienne and Vernant on cunning intelligence (metis) within Ancient Greek culture with its attendant form of productive knowledge (techné) and opportune mode of time/timing (kairos).

My own involvement in the Urban Retreat project was as an artist-writer, where I was invited by Mellor to produce a text that would elaborate or elucidate some of the concerns and issues – the threads, themes and even theories – emerging from within the project. My text, alongside other fragments, materials, images and reflections generated through the project, have since been collated by Mellor as the basis of a bookwork entitled The Manual for Marginal Places (published by Close and Remote, Spring 2011).  

My writing was informed by the live engagement and participation in other Urban Retreat events and through time spent in the Barrow-in-Furness landscape, alongside an ongoing exchange of postal correspondence between Mellor and myself. The text was thus produced as a response to – or through – various embodied encounters experienced within Barrow – the challenge of ‘street training’ with Lottie Child; a dérive through the town’s industrial margins with Laura Oldfield Ford; looking for (un)likely nightly shelter with Mellor; waking early and walking bare foot to Piel Island, warily in the gap of time before the tide turned; a night lodging in the tenement flats, the once-residence of Barrow’s dock-working community; the inimitable taste of hand-picked samphire and of rosehip and of found yellow plums; mild sea-sickness; a fear of quicksand; the acrid smell of piss that hits you from within the many military pill boxes that litter the shoreline; the conversation about the best places to climb, whilst sitting on that curb, with that girl on a bike, when everyone else had gone.