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.

Writing: Stepping Towards Stepping Away

Below is my introductory text produced as part of the 'Seer-in-Residence' project linked to the collaborative exhibition, From Where I Stand I can See You by Traci Kelly and Rita Marhaug, opening this week at Bonington Gallery, Nottingham. Along with 3 colleagues, I have been invited to be a 'Seer-in-Residence', interacting specifically with Kelly's work Feeling it For You (Perspective) through the prism of my own practice and research interests. The results of the 'Seer-in-Residence' project will be published later in 2013.

Stepping Towards Stepping Away

(W)e can each become, the one for the other, a bridge towards a becoming which is yours, mine, and ours. I can be a bridge for you, as you can be one for me. This bridge can never become the property of either … I perceive you, I create an idea for you, I preserve you in my memory in affect, in thought in order to assist your becoming. While I become me, I remember you. This should be a double gesture: you should be a bridge for me, as I should be one for you. Without a doubt, these bridges are not the same. [1]

Within a research culture that often privileges the distinction of one’s research from others, what place is there for the building of bridges? Beyond the realm of institutional collaboration and network bids, what does it really mean to construct spaces for speculation, for sharing ideas, for thinking together? How might I become a bridge for you, as you can be one for me? The construction of bridges attests to the desire for connection, facilitating movement and communication between one place or person and another. A bridge is used to join territories, opening opportunities for further dialogue and exchange. Building bridges can overcome obstacles that might otherwise divide and isolate, by creating passageway over rivers and chasms, or by crossing the line of difference that separates here from there, then from now, you from me, the familiar from the as-yet-unknown. A bridge might begin with an invitation, an initial reaching towards the other. Towards reciprocity I approach you through the prism of my own practice; in turn, my practice is approached through the prism of yours. Yet, there are inherent risks to bridge building proposals can collapse before they ever get off the ground; rejection too, for there will always be those who prefer to remain an island. The bridge contains both threat and promise, for it involves a challenge to one’s habitual limits, it requires one’s borders are rendered open, porous. A bridge must be built in good faith neither in fear of trespass or invasion from the other, nor based on a will to territorialize and control. The bridge is the space where true collaborations are founded, never fully owned by either side. Not just for crossing or passage, the bridge itself can be inhabited as a working zone, a state of temporary suspension that refuses to be bound by the binary logic of either ‘this’ or ‘that’. Franchissement a French term meaning both crossing and clearing. Bridge always both and between, always inter. The bridge is akin to the space of artistic research: between production and reflection, between art world and academia, between […] Between ignorance and knowledge, Sarat Maharaj locates the Sanskrit term avidya or ‘non-knowledge’. Avidya is not the opposite of vidya (knowledge or ‘to see-know’) but rather the prefix a signals towards neutrality, the suspension of binary terms. [2] For Maharaj, ‘Avidya is more about production, about generating new forms of think-feel-know, about first-person creativity, unknown circuits of consciousness … an unscripted condition where anything might happen’.[3] To step onto a bridge is to abandon something of the terra firma of solid ground, as a step towards the other is a step away from oneself, one’s comfort zone. A bridge can lead first in the direction of open water before it reaches the far shore. Dépaysement a French term meaning to be taken out of one’s element, led astray. [4] A vertiginous pleasure can be experienced in stepping off, into the brink, away from what is known or certain. A bridge is not always constructed for the purposes of getting to the other side. There are certain perspectives that can be encountered only by inhabiting the points between, by relinquishing fixed positions, through loss of stable ground.

[1] Luce Irigaray, ‘To perceive the invisible in you’, in To Be Two, (The Athlone Press: London and New Brunswick, 2000), p.43.
[2]  Maharaj gives examples of the neutral prefix a including ‘typical - atypical - untypical’ and ‘moral - amoral - immoral’. See Maharaj, in Sarat Maharaj and Francisco Varela, ‘Ahamkara: Particules élémentaires of first-person consciousness’, in Intellectual Birdhouse: Artistic Practice as Research, (Koenig Books, 2012), p.73.
[3] Maharaj, 2012, p.73.
[4] Alternatively, Michel Foucault uses the term égarement to mean ‘straying afield from oneself’, as noted by Paul Rabinow in Michel Foucault, Ethics: Essential Works of Foucault 1954 — 1984, Vol. 1 Subjectivity and Truth, (ed.) (The New Press, 1997), p.xxxix.