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.