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.

New writing: The Work of the Work and When the Work Works

My extended essay 'The Work of the Work and When the Work Works' is published in Four Hundred and Twenty-nine Significant Moments: Documenting an Artist’s Research and Processes by artist Lisa Watts, designed by DUST, Sheffield. My essay evolved through creative prose in response to encountering Lisa's work over a series of iterations as it developed from the project Skittish (witnessed at Vane, Newcastle; The Tetley, Leeds, to Not a Decorator… (witnessed at SIA, Sheffield; Castlefield Gallery, Manchester).

Extract from  'The Work of the Work and When the Work Works': "Some things are named according to the specific task, role or function that they are usually identified to perform. Here, naming defines the parameters of expectation and convention, pronouncing and privileging a single designated identity or activity to the exclusion or marginalisation of all others. Definition thus involves the cut of decision, settling the boundaries and limits through which things are both known and knowable. Now, imagine the task or challenge — this could be conceived as an instruction or score, a spell or incantation. Let things be released from their habitual duties and designations; let them become free of name, more than language ordinarily allows. Ritual emancipation, re-wilding the domestic — liberated, let everyday things surprise in their potential. Repurpose without purpose: let things enter unexpected relations, initiate new alliances and confederations — edges between dissolve as nascent action-assemblages emerge. Yet, what to call this practice of transformation through material play — artistic (Is this sculptural or performance?) or alchemical (Is this the science of invention, speculative philosophy or magic?) The categories of naming are already becoming protean, porous; disciplinary demarcations begin to collapse or blur. Find ways for notating and sharing this process of slippery transformation — yet be wary, for words can easily fix and stabilise that which is in motion, mutable or inconstant. Attend to the moments of decision-making, of minor revelation and deviation, of epiphany and failure. Yet take care, for in privileging one decision or observation, a myriad other options fall away inescapably, forever forgotten or forgone. Engage language lightly, for it too suffers the strictures of its own systems of definition and denomination, yet has the potential too for liberation, for also running wild. Still, be patient, since transformation will not be hurried, does not often come with haste. Transformation’s arc has many phases — witness as preparation tilts gently towards play, experiment edges towards invention. First — setting up the conditions: towards letting go, loosening the bonds of recognition and utility. Pre-formance — notice the doing that precedes doing, what must be done before play is begun."

About the publication: Hundred and Twenty-nine Significant Moments: Documenting an Artist’s Research and Processes maps the artistic processes over a nine month period of the making of the art work Not a Decorator… by Lisa Watts 2017.  It does this through the artist's use of Studio Activity Sheets SASs and two essays by writers Emma Cocker and Sarah Gorman who watched the art develop. It is also introduced with a transcription of a conversation between Lisa Watts and Rebecca Fortnum. This book is unique in revealing a close-up, chronological view of the formation of a specific artwork from the perspective of the artist. The research in this book encourages other disciplines, both within the arts and outside, to understand the aspects of an artist’s practice, as it unwraps artistic processes and their documentation for trans-interdisciplinary research. An edition of 100 printed books. £20. Please email lisa.karen.watts@gmail.com if you would like a copy.

Research Pavilion, Venice 2019

I have been invited to be part of the forthcoming Research Pavilion in the context of the Venice Biennale 2019, as part of a research ‘cell’ developed by Alex Arteaga entitled Through Phenomena Themselves: Exploring new possibilities of mutual enhancement between artistic and phenomenological research practices.

About the Research Pavilion
 The University of the Arts Helsinki brings the issues of artistic research to the context of the Venice Biennale, through its 3rd Research Pavilion in Venice in 2019. Uniarts Helsinki’s Research Pavilion highlights the points of view of artistic research in the context of the world’s best-known contemporary art event in spring and summer 2019. Set up now for the third time, the Research Pavilion has cemented its position as the focal point in artistic research, drawing international artists and researchers to Venice every two years.

With the Research Pavilion, Uniarts Helsinki offers a platform for thinking, discussion and collaboration arising from artistic research. This time, the Pavilion’s programme is focused around international research cells. Almost fifty artist-researchers in seven research cells will participate in an almost year-long process where the themes and programme of the Research Pavilion will sprout and take shape in joint discussions. 

“The Research Pavilion brings together researching artists from different countries. This creates a whole that is more than the sum of its parts. The starting point is the collaboration stemming from the operations of the research cells and the themes taking shape during the process, including human impact on the environment and the varied methods of artistic research,” Mika Elo and Henk Slager, the convenors of the Pavilion explain.

“There are no simple solutions to the complicated global challenges we face today. Art and artistic research introduce new perspectives on phenomena that would otherwise be hard to grasp. Uniarts Helsinki is a pioneer of artistic research, and we want to actively create international networks in the field”, says Jari Perkiömäki, Rector at Uniarts Helsinki.

The Research Pavilion will operate from May to the end of August 2019. As in previous years, the Research Pavilion will take place at the old monastery Sala del Camino, a charming oasis on Giudecca, some distance away from the masses of the biennale.

The Research Pavilion is an ongoing project created and hosted by Uniarts Helsinki. Research Pavilion #3 is created in cooperation with the Louise and Göran Ehrnrooth Foundation and international partner institutions. The main partners are Aalto University, Valand Academy of Arts at the University of Gothenburg, University of Applied Arts Vienna, Interlab Hongik University Seoul, and Taipei National University of the Arts.

Research cells and Switchboard
The Research Pavilion #3 project proceeds towards the high season in Venice through a series of research cell assemblies in September 2018, November 2018, and February 2019. A group of international experts – Esa Kirkkopelto, Sunjung Kim, Ellen J Røed, Anna-Kaisa Rastenberger and Giaco Schiesser – have been invited to facilitate this self-reflective and collaborative process. Due to its decisive role in articulating interconnections between the Research Cells, this group of experts is called the Switchboard.

Research cells in the Research Pavilion project
Cemetry Archipelago: On the imaginaries of human and non-human death
Disruptive Processes + Artistic Intelligence Research Alternator AIRA
Territories :: Dialects
Through Phenomena Themselves: Exploring new possibilities of mutual enhancement between artistic and phenomenological research practices
Traces from the Anthropocene: Working with Soil & Insects among Us

Read more at www.researchpavilion.fi

Lecture and Workshop: Being in the Midst

Emma Cocker, Score Propositions
(Experimental Reading) from No Telos, Venice, 2017
Original photograph: Elle Reynolds

Between 29 - 31 October I will be giving a lecture and leading a 2-day workshop called Being in the Midst: Per-forming Thinking-in-Action, the Kunst Musikk Design Faculty of Arts [kmd] in Bergen, Norway.
Drawing on recent projects, I propose to explore different artistic practices and approaches that are reflexively alert and attentive to the live circumstances – or occasionality - of their own processual production: the thinking-in-action, the kairos of decision-making, the moments of knowing and of not knowing, the navigation of competing forces, of working with and through obstacles or of figuring something out.

SAR document: Documenting the Academy: Diagrams and Field-Notes

The 1st Society of Artistic Research Academy took place in Barcelona (Facultat d’Humanitats  / University Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, 14 — 17 March 2018), bringing together a specially invited group of international artists/scholars, involved with and dedicated to research in the arts, from different disciplines and with different backgrounds (and opinions) to discuss the current questions and issues related to artistic research with reference to the thematics of Epistemology; Artefacts; Methodologies; Modes of Language.

Writer-artist Emma Cocker and artist Nikolaus Gansterer were both invited to ‘document’ the academy through the prism of their respective practices. In doing so, their ‘reports’ offer a partial and fragmentary response to the event — subjectively selective, irresolutely incomplete.

Emma Cocker approached the task of documentation through a process that she calls ‘field notes’ — which involved trying to ‘catch’ what was ‘in the air’ during the event itself as a series of thought-fragments and short phrases. During the three days of the Academy, Cocker’s attention focused on capturing these thought-fragments as they were uttered live by the event contributors, accumulating as a chronological list in her notebooks. The fragments have since been typed up and organized in reverse-sequence. Distilled into poetic condensations — still retaining the exact reverse-sequence logic — the intent is to evoke the atmosphere of the discussion rather than ‘factually’ record or describe what took place. 

Nikolaus Gansterer documented the event through the prism of his drawing practice, specifically through a form of diagrammatic drawing and annotation. His drawing process within the Academy echoed the mode of diagrammatic praxis developed through a process called ‘translectures’ that Gansterer has developed for over a decade as a mode of live translation of a discursive event. His drawings offer fragile structures for creating dynamic relations between text and image, associative proximities between different ideas and thoughts. Rather than fixing the discussion within a diagrammatic form, the drawn diagrams function as contingent containers for holding in relation the content emergent within an unfolding discussion.

Presented together within the research catalogue, these two documenting approaches are brought into changing proximity — creating linkages as well as points of deviation.

The document can be viewed here.