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 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. 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.

Publication: On Not Knowing



I have been invited to contribute a chapter to the forthcoming publication On Not Knowing: How Artists Think, (eds.) Rebecca Fortnum, Reader in Fine Art, University of the Arts London and Lizzie Fisher, curator, Kettle's Yard, Cambridge University, (Kettles Yard, 2013)

The publication On Not Knowing: How Artists Think will draw together a number of contemporary thinkers from a range of disciplines along with artists to explore the place of ‘not knowing’ within the creative process.   It is conceived as an examination of the subject through practice and theory and will include both written essays and artists’ projects. The state of ‘not knowing’ or engaging with the unknown is a clearly acknowledged important aspect of all research. For artists it is crucial, as during the making process they may move between a strong sense of direction and a more playful or meditative state of exploration and experimentation. Within this process a sense of not knowing what it is they are doing can be as important as clear intentions.  The book will examine states such as ignorance, wonder, awe, potential and recognizing the new, as well as reflect on how artists formulate strategies of not knowing and ‘play’ within their decision making process. Contributors include Professor Gary Peters (York St John), Associate Professor Rachel Jones (George Mason), Associate Prof Neal White (Bournemouth) and Dr Jyrki Siukonen (Finnish Academy) as well as artists Cornford and Cross, Sonia Boyce, Ian Kiaer and Phyllida Barlow. The publication builds on a symposium held at the invitation of Kettle’s Yard, to accompany the exhibition Material Intelligence in 2009.

For my contribution to On Not Knowing: How Artists Think  I am envisaging a creative prose text that elaborates and reflects on a series of propositional practices or tactics for producing the conditions of not knowing. Excavating ideas from some of my recent research and practice, I want to explore how the state of ‘not knowing’ or the practice of engaging with the unknown is an important aspect of all research, but is also one that might often need to be actively courted, conjured or produced. I am interested in methods (tactics even) that attempt to set up the conditions of not knowing or which actively attempt to stall or suspend the moment of knowing, of decision, or the fixing of things into form or thought. I anticipate that the text will consist of a series of episodes or sections that elaborate and reflect on a different practice or tactic for producing the conditions of not knowing.

These might include:

* Ideas relating to the desire to be led astray – wandering, errancy, getting lost, misdirection, the principle of the maguffin
* Tactics for encountering the unclassified – ways of producing an encounter with that which is beyond the comprehensible, a move towards opacity and the ‘incomprehensible wild’.
* Practicing the fall from knowing: surrendering to the fall & the not knowing of syncope.
* The conjectural: tactics for distancing the ‘if’ and ‘then’.
* Chance and the paradoxical ‘not knowing’ within rule-based operations; the giving over of agency in order to be surprised.
* The fragmented and fragmentary as states of not knowing
* Techné - between cunning (metis) and opportunity (kairos): improvising tactics for navigating the not yet known.