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.

Writing: Unwork




I am currently developing ideas for some new writing working with and around the idea of unwork.
Developing my approach from within recent writing (such as The Yes of the No!, Permission Granted and Room for Manoeuvre) I propose to explore the idea of unwork through a specifically semantic, as much as conceptual or theoretical line of enquiry. I am envisaging that the notion of unwork might be unraveled according to a number of ideas that could include:
- Unwork as a form of resistant or dissonant non-production or deviation of resources – a reversal, inversion, subversion, reworking of work’s time, specifically drawing on Michel de Certeau’s notion of ‘la perruque’.
Unwork as a term to describe or account for those forms of labour that refuse, resist, or otherwise fail to be easily classified as work (specifically in relation to notion of economic exchange) – the idea of vocation (including forms of spiritual labour); the figure of the volunteer, the amateur, the guardian, the player … duty of care ... labour of love … the relation of living to working (inherent in the term livelihood); ideas around the relation of meaning, meaningfulness, meaninglessness and work/unwork.
- Unwork in ‘palindromic’ relation to work where the work/unwork pairing is conceived as one of doing and undoing, making and unmaking. I am interested in exploring a shift from thinking about Sisyphean forms of labour (based on the mythic/absurd model of failure and repetition) which I have explored elsewhere (see Over and Over Again and Again) towards a form of Penelopian labour (the resistance inherent in the practice of doing/undoing, of refusing work’s closure or completion, by drawing on the mythic figure of the weaver/unweaver Penelope).
- From unwork to unworkable: something in the word unworkable which speaks of both redundancy and impotency (unemployment) at the same time as a kind of wildness (a utopian desire even?), something existing in excess of what is considered workable, utilitarian, practical, possible.


Various texts and artistic practices are functioning as interlocutors or provocateurs for considering these ideas: Simone Weil's writing on duty, labour, training; Michel de Certeau's The Practices of Everyday Life; Lars Svendsen's dual texts on Boredom and Work; Michael Hardt on Affective Labour; artist Walter de Maria's Meaningless Work and Boxes for Meaningless Work; Pilvi Takala's The Trainee; Tacita Dean's The Presentation Sisters; Vlatka Horvat's This Here and That There; work by Cool and Balducci; Francis Alys' Bolero (Shoe Shine Blues) and other work in relation to rehearsal; work by Hanne Darboven; Cummings and Lewandoska's Enthusiasm (arranged into the categories of Love, Labour, Longing


These ideas were initially presented in response to an invitation from SCAF (Sheffield Contemporary Art Forum) to develop a position statement in relation to the next Sheffield Art Sheffield (2013), specifically exploring potential threads or links between the previous two festivals, ArtSheffield08, Yes No and Other Options (curated by Jan Verwoert) and ArtSheffield10, Life: A Users Manual (curated by Frederique Bergholtz and Annie Fletcher).