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 the process of artistic exploration 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 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; Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line, 2017; The Creative Critic: Writing as/about Practice, and as a solo collection entitled The Yes of the No, 2016.

Paper: Re — (regarding, again and again)

My proposed paper Re — (regarding, again and again) has been accepted for the forthcoming Performing Documents Conference, Bristol, 12-14 April 2013. 

Re — (regarding, again and again)

(The) performance (is) already (a) reworking; things always come from other things. (I)t is (easy) to forget what goes into the making of the work; (the) things that came before. (T)he time it takes to make the work (is) condensed into (the time) it takes to perform it […] (W)hat should […] come after is often (what) comes before. 

Re — is an ongoing, collaborative project between Emma Cocker and Rachel Lois Clapham that presses on two practices to explore the process, product and performance (of text). Re — takes the form of an iterative performance reading that responds to and is reworked against the specificity of each invitation to perform: sometimes existing as a live performance reading, at other times as an installation of documents or score. Re — takes its name from the event of ‘regarding’, ‘concerning’ or ‘being in reference to’ (as an abbreviation followed by a colon). It also refers to ‘repetition’, the prefix re- indicating an action repeated ‘again’ or ‘again and again’, a ‘backward’ turn or return to a previous condition. It carries with it a sense of going ‘back to the original place, again,’ but with a sense also of ‘undoing’. Central to Re — is an interest in how thinking/making processes can be articulated (the dilemma, struggle, endeavour); how this process is recorded or archived, and in turn how that archive can be reactivated, reworked, re-presented. Each performance stages the archive (save as) of its own coming into being; each contains the trace or residue of previous iterations. The work puts into question the divisions between rehearsal, performance and documentation by blurring the line between these phases of practice, declaring them unstable categories. Each Re — reading enacts the making of its own documentation; the performance is already the documentation of earlier dialogic thinking/making processes.

Performance documentation archives the ‘becoming past’ of what is taking place whilst functioning as a starting point or instructive score waiting to be inhabited again (differently). Re — explores the impossibility of singular, panoptic forms of documentation (and knowledge) that attempt to capture/archive the totality of an event, focusing instead on performance document as fallible fragment, where (analogous to memory) the shattering or splintering of documentation into manifold parts resists reassembly or recollection, remaining partial, incomplete. Counter-intuitively, increasing ways of documenting/archiving performance results in it being less known/knowable, less easy to grasp – evermore contingent. Fragments of documentation fragment or disperse any coherent memory of the originary event … losing … forgetting … editing something out in the process.  However, each fragment potentially operates as a germinal ground, a graft from which new or unexpected lines of flight might materialize. With reference to Re — this paper considers the performance document/archive through the prism of ideas relating to the fragment and inherent dilemma therein for as Hans Jost Frey asserts, “One understands the fragment at the expense of its fragmentary nature … the fragment that has been understood is not a fragment anymore”, (Frey, Interruptions, 1996).

Background to conference
In recent years, 'the archive', 'the document', and other forms of preserving, recording and revisiting performance have become near-ubiquitous themes for international exhibitions, festivals and academic symposia. What does this pre-occupation say about the state of performance making and its institutions? Has there been a shift in the way performance is seen, understood and historicized? In what ways should we celebrate the creative potentials for the re-use of performance documentation and archival materials, and in what ways might we be critical of it?

Highlights of the conference will include a keynote speech by renowned scholar Rebecca Schneider; commissioned artists Every House Has a Door, Blast Theory, Bodies in Flight and Performance Re-enactment Society; tours of the Version Control exhibition at Arnolfini, and performances from Version Control artists Felix Gmelin and Tim Etchells; and a special exhibition at the University of Bristol’s Live Art Archive of the newly acquired Franko B archive.

Performing Documents is an AHRC-funded project hosted by the University of Bristol, in partnership with University of Exeter, Arnolfini and InBetween Time