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. 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: [...]

Karin Kihlberg & Reuben Henry, Apeirophobic Framework (2011) production still from HD Video

A new publication by Karin Kihlberg & Reuben Henry, featuring works from their current tour and texts by myself and Brian Dillon, published by VIVID and designed by James Langdon will be launched at ArtSway on 11 June 2011. The publication will be launched in conjunction with the exhibition, Apeirophobia, Karin Kihlberg & Reuben Henry (16 April - 12 June 2011).

‘Apeirophobia’ means a fear of the future - a phobia that compels sufferers to plan every element of their lives so that they know exactly what the future has in store for them. Apeirophobia is one part of an international touring programme of new work commissioned in collaboration with VIVID and Danielle Arnaud - with the exhibition at ArtSway featuring works from each stage of the tour. These works explore Kihlberg & Henry’s ongoing interest in the condition of the viewer in time and space.

I have been working on a structure for a non-linear or even woven text where the reader is not encouraged to follow a single written trajectory but rather explore overlapping and interrelated paragraphs. A footnoting system is proposed to run through the text, where each paragraph becomes the footnote for another which in turn becomes the footnote for another. 

Project: WRITING (the) SPACE

Wild Pansy Press Project Space
4 May - 19 May 2011 (Mon-Fri 9-6)
Old Mining Building, University of Leeds, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds LS2 9JT

‘If I hammer, if I recall in, and keep calling in, the breath, the breathing as distinguished from the hearing, it is for cause, it is to insist upon a part that breath plays in verse which has not (due, I think, to the smothering of the power of the line by too set a concept of foot) has not been sufficiently observed or practiced, but which has to be if verse is to advance to its proper force and place in the day, now, and ahead. I take it that PROJECTIVE VERSE teaches, is, this lesson, that that verse will only do in which a poet manages to register both the acquisitions of his ear and the pressure of his breath.’ Extract, Projective Verse, 1950.

Charles Olson’s Projective Verse invites writing to be considered spatially, as OPEN, or as FIELD (of) composition in three dimensions. His proposition is one of text as space of action, of breath as punctuation, and of the bodily pressures of writing in which ‘form is never more than an extension of content’.
WRITING (the) SPACE presses down on and around this unique poetics of writing in contemporary performance related practice - in particular, the possibilities of performance writing in spatial and physical terms. WRITING (the) SPACE is conceived as a period of action research within the Wild Pansy Press Project Space.

For WRITING (the) SPACE, Rachel Lois Clapham and Emma Cocker present a new iteration of their ongoing collaborative project Re –, which essays the relationship between performance/document, live/recording, writing/written through the collision of spoken, textual and gestural languages. This iteration of the project addresses the emergent grammar of Re –, exploring the spatial and physical possibilities of writing through the installation of disparate performance documents. Extracted fragments from earlier conversations rub against mute utterances of a finger diagramming, nails pink; a spoken text of dislocated phrases; partial scores awaiting activation; punctuation, the space of breath. Re – (WRITING (the) SPACE) is open to the public from 4 - 19 May, 9-6pm Mon-Fri.
WRITING (the) SPACE Event, 19 May 10.30am – 8pm
Drawing together the practices of diverse artists and writers, this day-long event attempts to further explore notions of physical and spatial writing, drawing on the installation Re – (WRITING (the) SPACE) and Olson’s notion of Projective Verse.
10.30-6pm: > OPEN > < OLSON > < OPEN <.
A laboratory exploring practice based examples of Olson’s OPEN text. Presenting: David Berridge, Rachel Lois Clapham, Emma Cocker, Victoria Gray and Claire Hind. Audience space is limited so booking is essential, please email rachellois@opendialogues.com.
6-8pm : How is Art Writing?
Dinner, drink and conversation on the last day of the exhibition as part of the In a word…artists’ dinner series. All welcome but booking essential via In a word...
WRITING (the) SPACE is developed by Rachel Lois Clapham (Open Dialogues) in partnership with New Work Yorkshire and supported by In a word…
In a word... is a research programme profiling an ecology of radical writing practice in, around and from Yorkshire. http://writingencounters.squarespace.com/in-a-word/

Open Dialogues is a UK collaboration, founded by Rachel Lois Clapham and Mary Paterson, that produces writing on and as performance. www.opendialogues.com
New Work Yorkshire is a proactive, engaged and mutually supportive collection of individuals who aim to develop a vibrant and diverse New Work sector in Yorkshire.
Wild Pansy Press is an art collective, a small publishing outfit affiliated with Leeds University Fine Art and a public venue for experimental works which use the practices of reading, writing and publication as their medium and/or content. wildpansypress.com
1 The Company of Men" by Charles Olson, typewritten manuscript with handwritten notations, September 13, 1957, from the Charles Olson Research Collection.
2 Re- (Unfixed) Rachel Lois Clapham and Emma Cocker, 2010. Courtesy the artists.

Review: Maelfa, Sean Edwards

I will be reviewing Sean Edward’s current solo show, Maelfa, at Spike Island (Bristol), for a forthcoming issue of Frieze magazine. The Maelfa Shopping Centre, Llanedyern, situated on the outskirts of Cardiff, is the focus of Sean Edwards’ latest project. Built around a block of high-rise flats in a council estate in the mid 1970s, the Maelfa centre was once a thriving microcosm of the wider city but declined over the subsequent decades. Edwards undertook a residency in the centre ahead of its planned demolition, making a careful study of the still functioning yet near derelict space, creating a series of new works. Due to the recession, however, plans to develop Maelfa have now been put on hold with the centre still functioning day to day. The central piece of the exhibition is a slow paced, silent video that touches upon a sense of poignancy associated with disappearing communities and failed utopian aspirations. The video will be accompanied by an installation of photographs, prints, models and other ephemera relating to the project, specially commissioned for Spike Island's central galleries. Maelfa expands the artist’s interventions into everyday systems and is the artist's first major UK solo show in a public space.

Preview of Frieze review

Sean Edwards
Spike Island, Bristol

"Sean Edwards’ exhibition at Spike Island – his first major UK solo show in a public space – was named after the Maelfa shopping centre on the outskirts of Cardiff (close to where the young Abergavenny-based artist grew up, and where he undertook a residency in 2009). Like many other postwar building projects, Maelfa and its neighbouring estate never fulfilled its planners’ hopes; the shopping centre was never fully finished, falling into decline even whilst in development. Borrowing from the writing of Robert Smithson, Edwards describes it as ‘becoming a ruin’ or ‘a ruin in reverse’. Since its inception Maelfa has seemed somehow ‘out of time’; moreover, proposals to demolish it have also been put on hold – it has always been in limbo.

Visible traces of the place recurred throughout the exhibition: a series of large-scale giclée prints pasted to the gallery wall captured grainy fragments of Maelfa’s interior, their detail degrading towards abstraction. Barely discernible were the corner of a door in Tiles, the inscription of a hand-written sign in Note or the edges of aged graffiti bleached by white light in Daylight (all 2011). In one corner, Four Windows (2010-11), a group of precariously propped wooden ovals, visually echoed the elliptical motif of Maelfa’s shop unit windows; their visual simplicity belied the labour invested in their multi-layered construction. Edwards’ practice of oblique referencing was extended in a large plywood structure, The Reference (2011). 

Sean Edwards
, The Reference
, 2011
. Photo: Jamie Woodley, Image courtesy the artist, Spike Island, Limoncello and Tanya Leighton Gallery

Suspended from the ceiling, its meticulously filled and sanded curves referred to the roof of a former reference library (here inverted and scaled down 5:1). Edwards skillfully inserted the architecture of one place into that of another; details from Maelfa’s locality lured the viewer towards the awkward corners of Spike Island’s notoriously challenging layout, its habitually underused or peripheral spaces activated through physical interventions or illuminating light. Central to the exhibition was Maelfa (2010) a silent and slow-paced video in which the glide of a tracking camera navigates a line through the shopping centre’s covered arcades, capturing the indeterminacy of its everyday life seen through, whilst also simultaneously reflected back, in the glass of shop-front windows. The slow flow of movement was disorientating, making it difficult to discern reflected shapes from physical forms, to locate the position of the camera in relation to what was being filmed.

It is tempting to view Edwards’ treatment of this site in nostalgic terms, as a melancholy lamentation reflecting upon the failure of Utopian dreams, or a product of the artist’s desire to reconnect with a place frequented in his youth. However, this privileges the contextual narratives surrounding Maelfa at the expense of other critical questions or concerns. The exhibition certainly extended Edwards’ interest in ways of seeing (sculpturally), where an acute form of observation emerges through the practice of cutting or slicing through a space or structure, revealing what is beneath the surface by effectively sanding back the layers or by exposing a cross-section. Here, the track of the camera operates akin to the sculptor taking a plane to wood, where skimming the surface of a place draws attention to unexpected grain and texture. Winter Light Between (2011) reflected a similarly sculptural imperative: two slide-projectors chart the passage of sunlight carving an illuminated shape across the curved surface of a wall. Edwards’ interest in the poetics of space is less concerned with the sensibility or quality of poetic representation, as in exploring how something physical can be constructed, de-constructed, re-constructed. Architectural theorist Jan Turnovský has noted how, ‘Poetics is related etymologically to the Greek term poiein, which means “to make”. This is the root of the term poiesis: fabrication, production.’ He adds that, ‘The maxim of the poetic is not to fix meaning but to offer a choice of possibilities – an indeterminate open-endedness.’ ‘Maelfa’ confused singular interpretation by demanding to be read in multiple ways. Counter-intuitively, the determinacy of Edwards’ reference to a place causes the work to fluctuate between the specific and generic, figurative and abstract, between formal and autobiographical concerns. To refer to the poetics of ‘Maelfa’ is thus not to describe its style (adjectivally, even pejoratively), but instead signals towards the critical nature of its open-endedness, the unresolved or unfixed relationship between its component parts."

Emma Cocker, 2011