Emma Cocker is a writer-artist based in Sheffield and Associate Professor in Fine Art, Nottingham Trent University. Emma's research focuses on artistic processes and practices, and the performing of ‘thinking-in-action’ therein. Her practice unfolds restlessly along the threshold between writing/art, including experimental, performative and collaborative approaches, alongside a mode of ‘contiguous writing’ — a way of writing-with that seeks to touch upon rather than being explicitly about. Her writing is 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, 2013; On Not Knowing: How Artists Think, 2013; Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line, 2017; The Creative Critic: Writing as/about Practice, and the solo collection, The Yes of the No, 2016. More recently, Emma trained to be a qualified yoga teacher, interested in how a heightened awareness of the body and breath, alongside meditation and attention practices, might be integrated into art-writing, artistic practice, pedagogy and research.

Event: In Imagination - The Future reflected in Art and Argument

I will be giving the  closing key note presentation at a one-day symposium, In Imagination: the future reflected in art and argumentin conjunction with the UK premiere of Forced Entertainment’s Tomorrow’s Parties, at the University of Sheffield, 4th October 2013. 

Humans are capable of a unique trick: creating realities by first imagining them, by experiencing them in their minds. When Martin Luther King said "I have a dream", he was inviting others to dream it with him. Once a dream becomes shared in that way, current reality gets measured against it and then modified towards it. […] The dream becomes an invisible force which pulls us forward. By this process it starts to come true. The act of imagining something makes it real. Brian Eno, ‘The Big Here and Long Now.’

Comprised of keynote papers and two panels, and featuring a variety of speakers from both professional performance and academic worlds, In Imagination: the future reflected in art and argument will address ideas of imaginative spaces, determination and conceptual summoning as well as discussing the use of theatre as a tool to speculate, predict and conceptualise. The event is organised around two panels: (1) Imaging the Future/Perceiving the future: exploring the prophetic possibilities of imagined worlds, their reflection and affect on the present, and the cognitive relation of the mind to making actual; and (2) Performing the future: Can performance evoke/anticipate the future? How might it do so? By what means can theatre speculate, predict, conceptualise or otherwise open up a future space? Opening Keynote by Tim Etchells and Terry O’Connor (Forced Entertainment); Closing Keynote by Emma Cocker (Nottingham Trent University). Confirmed speakers include Steven Connor (University of Cambridge); Matt Adams (Blast Theory); Joe Kelleher (University of Roehampton); Cathy Shrank (University of Sheffield); Johan Seibers (UCLAN); Carmen Szabo (University of Sheffield); Jess Edwards (MMU); Fabienne Collignon (University of Sheffield).

Proposed paper
: What now, what next – kairotic imagination and the unfolding future seized

Taking its point of departure from Forced Entertainment’s new performance Tomorrow’s Parties, this presentation considers two different modes of future-oriented imagination operative within creative practice, shifting attention from the future as it is imagined within art and argument (as projection or ‘vision’) towards an understanding of an ever-emergent future that is endlessly seized and inhabited through the live and improvisatory act of imagining. Turning from the product (what is imagined) towards the process of imagining, the intent is to explore how within artistic practice the creative production of the future (as different or otherwise) is perhaps less one of planning or proposing future-possible worlds, but rather emerges through the restless capacity for conceptualizing an insurgent ‘or’. Contraction of the word ‘other’, ‘or’ does not simply present an alternative to a given reality (according to the binary logic of either/or, this or that) but instead might be considered a site of repeated intervention and invention (or … or … or), disrupting the illusory continuity of the past>present>future (all is, as was, as will be) in search of multiple lines of flight. Here, the imagination is conceived as a kairotic capability, an improvisatory tendency located at the threshold between the ‘as is’ of the present and the ‘not yet’ of the future, that fleeting moment of opportunity wherein things might change or else remain the same.