Emma Cocker is a writer-artist and Associate Professor in Fine Art at Nottingham Trent University. Operating under the title Not Yet There her enquiry explores models of practice and subjectivity that resist or refuse the pressure of a single, stable position by remaining wilfully unresolved. Not Yet There is shaped by an interdisciplinary, hybridised approach, operating restlessly along the threshold of writing/art, including experimental, performative and collaborative approaches to producing 'texts' parallel to and as art practice; the slippage between writing on page, to performance in time, between still and moving image, between individual and collective action.
Cocker’s ongoing enquiry is often concerned with the endeavour of artistic process, with a focus on critical-creative ‘ways of operating’ that are self-reflexively attentive to — whilst also attempting to make tangible — the live circumstances or ‘occasionality’ of their own processual production: the points where ‘thinking’ is activated or provoked within practice, the unfolding decision-making, thinking-in-action, the navigation of competing forces, the activity of working with/through obstacles or of ‘figuring’ something out. Here, Cocker is concerned with prolonging, emphasising and honouring this space of indeterminacy, by investigating the potentiality of a form of ‘thinking’ that precedes and might indeed be different to ‘knowledge’, asserting value for this habitually unseen, undisclosed or often unsharable aspect of an artist’s/writer’s practice. This focus within practice involves a shift of attention from the deliberate (directly purposeful) to the process of deliberation (care/weighing-up), by insisting that purpose or meaning is not always synonymous with the notion of achieving a ‘goal’.
Current preoccupations within Cocker’s ongoing enquiry include:
(1) Practising the self (otherwise): exploring different artistic practices that seemingly operate as contemporary manifestations of the Ancient Greek ‘practices of the self’ or ‘arts of existence’ (techne tou biou) where life (in Foucault's terms) is conceived as a material that is malleable and to be approached as "aesthetic production as if it were a 'work of art'". In parallel, investigating different tactics through which the experience of self is pressured towards its limits, where the illusory boundary between self/other or self/world becomes porous including through collaboration practices of being-with; (2) Practising of attention: through the cultivation of preparatory or preliminary practices, how do we actively create receptive conditions for radical forms of attention, awareness and empathetic relationality, which in turn might give rise to new forms of creative action, the potential for a more ethical — perhaps even resistant — mode of human agency and subjectivity, where practising is not undertaken for ‘reaching towards’ a specific telos but as a mode of autotelic sense-making in its own right?; (3) Tactics of affirmative resistance /resistant affirmation: how might we resist or dislodge the ubiquitous demands to do more and more – faster and faster – that arguably underpin our contemporary culture of immediacy and urgency, of 24/7 access and availability, with its privileging of multitasking, perpetual readiness and ethos of ‘just-in-time’ production. How might not knowing, uncertainty, indeterminacy, the untranslatable or unexplainable alongside the non-teleological (non-action, doing nothing, non-doing) operate in critically resistant terms?; (4) Experimental micro-temporalities and co-incidings: how do different creative processes affect and shape our lived experience of time, disrupting the linear perception of chronos, to reveal and bring into relation a plurality of micro-temporal co-incidings? How might we organise or even score our time together (differently)?; (5) Conversation-as-material: conversation conceived not only as a means for reflecting on practice, but also as a generative and productive practice in-and-of-itself, both site and material for the construction of inter-subjective and immanent modes of linguistic ‘sense-making’. Conversation-as-material involves the quest for a not-yet-known vocabulary emerging synchronous to the live circumstances that it seeks to articulate, where meaning does not exist prior to the event of utterance but rather is co-produced through the dialogic process of conversation itself.
Cocker often works collaboratively with other artists: she is currently collaborating with artist Clare Thornton on an ongoing project called The Italic I (2012 ongoing;) and is a key researcher on the project Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations of the Line (2014 ongoing) a collaboration with artist Nikolaus Gansterer and choreographer Mariella Greil, for exploring and notating those forms of thinking-feeling-knowing produced as the practices of writing, drawing and movement collide. She previously collaborated with performance collective Open City (2007 — 2010) and on a project entitled Re- with writer-curator, Rachel Lois Clapham (2009 — 2012).
Cocker’s writing has been published in academic collections, monographs, exhibition catalogues, art journals and artist’s books, and she has presented papers and lectures internationally. Her recent academic writing has been published in Failure, (Documents of Contemporary Art Series, 2010); Contemporary Art / Classical Myth (2011); Stillness in a Mobile World (2011); Hyperdrawing: Beyond the Lines of Contemporary Art (2011); Drawing a Hypothesis: Figures of Thought (2011); Liminal Landscapes, (2011); Emerging Landscapes: Between Production and Representation (2012); Reading/Feeling (2013); On Not Knowing: How Artists Think (2013) and Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line (2017). Her first collection of writing, The Yes of the No, was published by Site Gallery, 2016. Cocker is a member of the Publishing Advisory Group for the Live Art Development Agency, part of the Editorial Board for Architecture and Culture, and a peer-reviewer for TRACEY, Rhizomes, Area and Architecture and Culture. From 2001 – 2005 she was co-editor of the publication series Transmission: Speaking and Listening – a joint venture between Site Gallery and Sheffield Hallam University. Cocker's writing on contemporary art has been published in magazines/journals including Frieze, Camera Austria, Dance Theatre Journal, The Art Book, drain, m/c, Journal of Writing in Creative Practice, art + research and Performance Research Journal.