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.

New Writing: Helmsman's Knowledge


The act of sailing involves the interaction of the boat and the skipper and the water and the wind. Learning to sail requires the negotiation between and with these different elements; it is a process of facilitation or mediation that attempts to make good the turbulence created by the pull of the water and the push of the wind. Sailing thus involves a mode of attendance or attention to these different and often competing forces; moreover, an intuition for knowing when to yield and for recognizing when to assert control. Our own experience of being in the world might equally be thought of in terms of these interrelations and co-dependencies. Subject formation is a highly contingent process that takes place somehow between and through the event of affecting and of being affected by other things.

The trope of sailing and the figure of the helmsman have become recurrent motifs within my recent research practice, used to articulate the sense of interconnectedness inherent within the experience of ‘being’; moreover, for intimating towards how lived experience might be steered actively through the cultivation of ‘helmsman’s knowledge’. In the first instance, ‘helmsman’s knowledge’ involves an acknowledgement of oneself as a force amongst other forces, awareness of one’s capacity to both affect and be affected by other things. Secondly, ‘helmsman’s knowledge’ might be developed as a ‘tactical’ form of knowledge capable of navigating or working with life’s contingent forces and pressures, by harnessing (rather than simply being blown about by) the push and pull of these various ‘winds’ and ‘currents’. Drawing on my own live experience of various art encounters, alongside selected theoretical and philosophical ideas, I am currently working on new writing that elaborates the notion of ‘helmsman’s knowledge’ or the endeavour of ‘steering a life’ as an ethico-aesthetic practice.