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.

Publication: Site Reading Writing Quarterly

Site-Reading Writing Quarterly (edited by Jane Rendell) celebrates reading and writing as situated practices, releasing a special pair of seasonal reviews four times a year. For Issue 7, I “read” Ben Spatz’s Making A Laboratory: Dynamic Configurations with Transversal Video, (Punctum Books, 2020) and Ben Spatz read Emma Cocker, Nikolaus Gansterer, Mariella Greil (eds.) Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line, (de Gruyter, 2017).

The two readings can be encountered here 

Workshop: Contingent Agencies | Notations, Reflections and Strategies of Display


with: Alex Arteaga, Stephanie Bunn, Emma Cocker, Karmen Franinović, Nikolaus Gansterer, Paul Petritsch & Nicole Six, Frida Robles, Charlotta Ruth.


Between 5 - 9 October 2021, I was an invited contributor to this workshop, Notations, Reflections and Strategies of Display which took place at the Angewandte Performance Laboratory. The workshop was part of the wider research project Contingent Agencies, led by artistic researchers Alex Arteaga and Nikolaus Gansterer. 


About Contingent Agencies: Contingent Agencies is an artistic research project conceived as an inquiry into the subtle, dynamic, complex, and enveloping presences that emerge in given situations for those who inhabit them. These presences are denominated with various terms such as “Stimmungen,” “moods,” or even “places,” or “figures.” In this project we favor the words “atmospheres” and “environments.” More particularly, this project investigates the specific ways in which the actualization of the agencies of single components of a situation (from light to animals, from artifacts to sounds, from matter to vegetation, from traffic to color) conditions the emergence of these comprehensive and senseful presences. Accordingly, atmospheres are considered as coherent networks of phenomena that emerge due to a systemically organized set of intertwined agencies: the capacity of each component of a given situation to transform the presence of the other components and the arising environment. Contingent Agencies aims at investigating this subject matter in a non-reductive way through artistic and aesthetic practices and connecting this inquiry with other processes of research realized through practices developed in the humanities, the social, and the natural sciences.

More about the research project Contingent Agencies here.

My responses to this workshop can be encountered here

Conference: Elastic Writing




I presented a paper called Conversation as Material as part of the CARPA (Colloquium on Artistic Research in Performing Arts) on Elas­tic Writ­ing in Artis­tic Re­search (25 – 28 August 2021).


Abstract: Conversation-as-material

Conversation-as-material is an artistic research practice that I have developed over the last decade within a series of collaborations including: (1) Re— (with Rachel Lois Clapham, 2009-2012), (2) The Italic I (with Clare Thornton, 2012-2018); (3) Choreographic Figures (with Nikolaus Gansterer and Mariella Greil, 2014-2019). Within the practice of conversation-as-material, conversation is conceived less as a means for talking about practice, but rather as an aesthetic practice in-and-of itself, site and material for the construction of immanent, inter-subjective modes of verbal-linguistic sense-making emerging through different voices enmeshed in live exchange. Conversation-as-material is a language-based practice that is attentive to, whilst attempting to make tangible, the live(d) experience of aesthetic co-creation. The practice involves an attempt to find a vocabulary for speaking with, through and from the experience of practising, where linguistic content is not already known in advance, but rather emerges in and through a collaborative working-with of language. The rhythm of conversation can produce a different texture of textual articulation to conventional writing. The cadence of conversation — its pitch and intonation, the tempo of speech — can often be of rising and falling, dipping and peaking. Conversation — from con- meaning ‘with, together’, and versare, ‘to turn, bend’. Conversation-as-material is a practice of collaborative writing-with that unfolds through different voices ‘turning about’ together. It involves the quest for a not-yet-known vocabulary generated synchronously to the live circumstances that it seeks to articulate — an infra-personal poetics co-produced through the dialogic process itself, revealed only in retrospect once recorded conversation has been transcribed, then distilled into a dense poetic form.


About the conference: Organised by UniArts Helsinki, the CARPA (Colloquium on Artistic Research in Performing Arts) on Elas­tic Writ­ing in Artis­tic Re­search (25 – 28 August 2021) invited participants to introduce and explore extended forms of writing that critically substantiate the aesthetic and creative features and diverse knowledges involved in artistic research. See conference vision here

Dialogue: Beyond Bohm - Contemplation + Creativity


I was invited to contribute to a panel on Creativity And The Artist (led by Hester Reeve) as part of the extended summer seminar series organised by the Pari Centre, Beyond Bohm: Science, Order And Creativity, August 14-29, 2021. Our panel formed part of a series of talks exploring Contemplation and Creativity

Creativity And The Artist

Saturday August 14, 2021

with Jessica Ball,  Alison Churchill, Emma Cocker and Hester Reeve

 

David Bohm’s writing on creativity was not directed exclusively at art works, instead it sought to outline a more foundational capacity in any one of us – or in any human discipline – for new orders of perception and understanding. First and foremost, he explained, we need to awaken the necessary ‘creative mind state’ which is suppressed by the unrecognized “boss reality” of Western thought, language and the associated entrapment of the self-image. Bohm’s is a dynamic model of creativity open to entanglements of mind, body, language, conceptual abstraction, non-human matter and infinity, the nature of which is to be continually unfolding, to be generative. His expanded notion of what constitutes an ‘artform’ is radical and speaks to contemporary, speculative approaches towards ever opening up an animate world of which we are a participant.

 

More about the overall programme can be found here

Dialogue: Embracing Uncertainty (Centre of Complexity)



On 15 June 2021, I engaged in an invited conversation on ‘Embracing Uncertainty’ with neuroscientist Stuart Firestein to discuss failure and ‘not knowing’ as generative forces from the perspectives of art and science, exploring tactics for knowing how to not know and for embracing uncertainty during uncertain times. The conversation formed part of the programme for the Carry Forward Symposium (June 14-16, 2021) hosted by the Center for Complexity at the Rhode Island School of Design.


More on the conversation here 

More on the overall symposium here 

Conference: Aesthetics + Knowledge

In July we - Alex Arteaga | Emma Cocker | Nicole Wendel | Sabine Zahn – shared aspects of our collaborative research project, thinking aesthetic thinking through aesthetic research practices, as part of the Aesthetik und Erkenntnis (Aesthetics and Knowledge),  July 13th to 15th, 2021, XI. Congress of the German Society for Aesthetics, Zurich University of the Arts. For this context, our aim was the  live activation of what we call an ecology of aesthetic research practices - a set of interconnected aesthetic practices in action - which aim to provide conditions for evidence of what aesthetic thinking might be. The performed practices are not presented as illustrative examples but rather as aesthetic thinking in action — as ongoing processes of research through aesthetic practices, as an emerging ecology of aesthetic research practices.

For more on our activation for the conference see here 

For more on the conference see here 

Colloquium Key-note: Uncertain Knowledge(s)

Uncertain Knowledge(s)

7th July 2021


I was invited as the key-note speaker for the colloquium Uncertain knowledge(s) organised by the Material Encounters research group at Birmingham City University| 7th July 2021

 

My abstract: Tactics for Preparing for the Unexpected 

By attending closely to the unfolding of artistic process, how might we go beyond the rhetoric of ‘not knowing’ towards a more nuanced understanding of the uncertain knowledge(s) generated in and through artistic research? How is an encounter with the unknown or unforeseen activated within the doing of artistic research, conceived as a co-constitutive, co-emergent process of collaboration between human and non-human forces and agencies? Rather than seeking to control or steer the research process towards a specific telos or outcome, how might the artist-researcher cultivate an attitude of openness, receptivity towards the unplanned for, that which cannot be anticipated in advance? How does the artist-researcher prepare for the unexpected? 

 

A version of my presentation can be encountered here

 

About the colloquium:

“The concept of material thinking offers us a way of considering the relations that take place within the very process or tissue of making. In this conception, the materials are not just passive objects to be used instrumentally by the artist, but rather, the materials and processes of production have their own intelligence that come into play in interaction with the artist's creative intelligence”, Bolt, B (2010), The Magic is in the Handling. In: E, Barrett, & B. Bolt, eds. Practice As Research: Approaches to Creative Arts Enquiry. London: I. B. Tauris & Company, pp.29-30.

 

An artist’s working process is a hidden yet significant journey: it is where ambiguous and uncertain knowledge(s) are given the opportunity to be discovered through materiality and encounter. The artist’s process itself is also a highly valuable practice of research, actively enabling new yet potentially slippery knowledge(s) to emerge through reflection, the synthesis of ideas and the unknown. This one-day colloquium seeks to provoke dialogues across practices to examine the possibilities and unknowns of process and matter as a critical meeting point between thought, intention, and the expectance of what might transpire. What happens when the outcome is not the goal? How can we conceptualise and capture the flux of artistic practice as research? Can the artmaking process that is unformulated, communicate research beyond words? Contributions from artists, researchers and all those in/between were invited that explore themes that include but are not limited to: Disruption; Im)materiality; Uncertainty and ambiguity; Material epistemologies; Risk, failure and the accidental; Process and the (un)finished work; The act of making and production.

 

More about the colloquium here 

Seminar: Site-writing

In March 2021 I was invited as a ‘guest critic’ on the Critical Spatial Practice: Site-Writing module within the frame of the MA Situated Practices at Bartlett. This module explores site-writing as a form of critical spatial practice from a transdisciplinary perspective focusing on exploring: (1) Questions of positionality and subjectivity through the adoption of particular kinds of voices in relation to space, place and site; (2) Different spatial approaches to writing through the positioning of words on the page and in other sites; (3) Different voices in relation to space, place and site and a range of different approaches to the positioning of words on and off the page and in situated spatial configurations.

Network/Workshop: Pause for Thought

In April I was invited to participate in an AHRC Network Workshop called Pause for Thought: Media Literacy in an Age of Incessant Change, coordinated by Dr Thomas Sutherland (University of Lincoln) and Dr Scott Wark (University of Warwick). The aim of Pause for Thought is to create an interdisciplinary network of scholars, artists, writers, media practitioners, and creative professionals who are invested in the future of media literacy and who might both benefit from and contribute to the formulation of modes of analysis, creative practices, and teaching strategies appropriate for our rapidly shifting media landscape. Should we look upon the unavoidable inability of our practice to keep up with technological change as some kind of failure? Should we leave the question of how we live with technology to those who impose it upon us? Or can we view our experience and our practices as points of departure for a more constructive critique of the high-speed society?

Responses from the workshop have been gathered as a project website here 


My own response comprises an abridged version of my introduction to the conference Doing Deceleration (that I co-organised with Henk Slager 4th July 2017, Nottingham Contemporary), and can be read here 

Archive/Project: Suspended Absence (The Lost Conference)

Danica Maier and I presented a version of the publication No Telos, as part of the Lost Bergen Conference Relic Site, within the frame of the SAR conference Dare Care Share.

Our original abstract: No Telos: Tactics of Affirmative Uncertainty

How can artistic research operate alternatively to the language of capitalism, sports and warfare (modeled on economic efficiency/gain, competition/success, target-hitting/strategic machination)? How can artistic research practices that are non-teleological, atelic or autotelic intervene in and unsettle the outcome-motivated and achievement-driven tendencies of contemporary culture, by cultivating shared practices of experiential becoming and collective being-doing?

 

Reflecting on No Telos (2016>) — a project exploring the critical role of uncertainty, disorientation and not knowing within artistic research-practice —we ask: How can we shift emphasis from goal-oriented productivity towards experimental forms of process-led exploration, subversive playfulness and wilful irresolution? Can we differentiate affirming and debilitating forms of uncertainty and open-endedness, between a not knowing that vectors towards generative exploration and that which paralyses, creates stasis? What role has the practising of creative uncertainty within the uncertain conditions of contemporary life? Towards an ethics of uncertainty — how can an encounter with the unfamiliar and strange(r) operate as a micro-political, ethico-aesthetic practice? The rhetoric of art practice, pedagogy and research often foregrounds not knowing, uncertainty and getting lost — yet how can such principles be taught or practised?

 

Against the strategic power dynamics of institutionalised research, No Telos embraces Michel de Certeau’s advocacy of everyday ‘tactics’ that invigorate the experiential quality of life lived — aesthetic practices of reading, looking, walking, talking, eating, being-with. Invoking the Latin etymology of ‘mirror’ — mirare: to observe, contemplate, look at, wonder — we ask: How can artistic research not only mirror back (reflect, reveal) the conditions of life as-is, but also reactivate our critical curiosity (Freire), re-engage our capacity for collective attention and imagination?

 

Our presentation can be found here: 

 

Context: The Crisis Collective! 11th SAR International Conference on Artistic Research, Bergen 2020 had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. The conference organisers – SAR and the Faculty of Fine Art, Music and Design at University of Bergen (KMD, UiB) – have created a relic site and a time capsule to it here at the 2021 SAR conference Vienna and into the future. We approached all participants to take initiative and speculate on the past of a future that couldn’t happen – receiving a spectacular response by more than 30 contributors. Together we show care for the momentum of the past creative acts and research – longingly fragmented and cryptic as they may be – and give that imminent yet suspended resonance a voice.

 

Inauguration

The Lost Bergen Conference Relic Site was officially inaugurated in the Lost Bergen Conference “Suspended Absence” discussion room on 8th April, 2:30pm, (digital) Fanny Hensel Hall Discussion on “Suspended Absence”. The Lost Bergen Conference Relic Site harbours the finished and the fragmented, unfinished work to be explored by peers and public. Audio-visual recordings, images, texts, references, etc., appear in their original form or with adaptations the authors choose to make in the light of the past year, including statements and reflections on what has changed. The website is now published as a lasting issue on the Research Catalogue.

 

Encounter the Lost Bergen Conference Relic Site here


Presentation: Site-Reading - Site Specific Writing and Reading


With Lena Séraphin, I co-presented a performative rendering of the project Site-Reading – Site Specific Writing and Reading as part of the Society of Artistic Research conference, Dare | Care | Share  (7 - 9 April 2021)


Abstract: Site-Reading dares to conceive writing, reading and listening as aesthetic research practices, caring for their inter-subjective potential, whilst asking how shared spaces are constructed in/by/with text. Invited writers/artistic researchers make written observations of a public site for a timebound period, collaborating in a shared action, though geographically apart. The performativity of this practice redefines the solitary act of writing, introducing site-specific writing as a literary genre. Reading the texts aloud together creates a liminal space, through the intermingling of different voices, places and approaches to writing/reading. Where are you when you listen — especially if you don’t grasp the language? Does Site-Reading affirm a shared space — what does it look or feel like?

 

Site-Reading – Site Specific Writing and Reading is initiated by Emma Cocker and Lena Séraphinin association with writers Andrea Coyotzi BorjaAlexander DamianischCordula DausSepideh KaramiVidha Saumya.


A research catalogue exposition of the project can be found here 

Event: Collateral Readings (Language-based Artistic Research)


The first official gathering of the Society of Artistic Research Special Interest Group of Language-based Artistic Research, took place prior to the Society of Artistic Research Conference 2021, for celebrating with the recent launch of Practice Sharing, an online presentation of expanded approaches to language-based practice within the field of artistic research. The first Practice Sharing comprises over 70 individuals and collaborations from a broad and transforming perspective to include diverse fields such as visual arts, performance, film, theatre, music, choreography as well as literature. 


For the event in April 2021, we invited a number of colleagues within the field of language-based artistic research to present their own individual ‘readings’ of the Practice Sharing material, drawing out different resonances and connections emerging through diving into this rich collection of practices. These diverse readings provide a context for opening up a wider informal discussion, for reflecting on broader issues and questions concerning language-based artistic research and the future direction of the Special Interest Group. Readers include Rosie Heinrich, Brandon LaBelle, Monika Rinck, Imogen Stidworthy, Nathan Walker.

 

The collateral readings can be encountered here 

Conference Key-note: Towards an Attitude of Openness (Care | Share | Dare)




I was invited as one of the key-note speakers (alongside Liza Lim and Jyoti Mistry) for the annual Society of Artistic Research conference entitled CARE DARE SHARE. The 12th SAR Conference on Artistic Research of the Society for Artistic Research took place from 7 - 9 April 2021 and was hosted by mdw – University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna in cooperation with the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and the University of Applied Arts Vienna. It was oriented on the three attractors ‘care’, ‘dare’ and ‘share’ and is the first SAR conference to be organised as a live online event.

 

My abstract: Towards an Attitude of Openness

Drawing on her experience of collaborative artistic research, writer-artist Emma Cocker will consider the three attractors — dare, care, share — through the connecting thread of openness. How might artistic research invite and encourage (give courage) towards an attitude or orientation of openness — within the process of enquiry and its sharing; towards others and the world; towards the practice of living and of life? ‘Being open’ has manifold meaning — it can mean (a) not shut or closed; (b) having no protecting or concealing cover; (c) carried on in full view; (d) not closely defended by an opponent; (e) not sealed or tied; (f) having interspersed gaps, spaces, or intervals; (g) accessible; (h) free from limitations, boundaries or restrictions; (i) to speak freely and candidly; (j) to open (one’s) eyes, to become aware of the truth of a situation; (k) willing to consider or deal with something; (l) ready to transact business; (m) not yet decided, subject to further thought; (n) characterised by lack of pretense or reserve, frank; (o) free of prejudice, receptive to new ideas and understanding; (p) generous; (q) in operation, live; (r) to undo, to release from a closed or fastened position; (s) to remove obstructions from, clear; (t) to get (something) going, initiate; (u) to make or force an opening or gap in, to break the continuity of; (v) to make more responsive or understanding; (w) to reveal the secrets of, to bare; (x) to modify (one’s stance); (y) to accelerate; (z) susceptible, vulnerable. Explored through the prism of openness, how might the three attractors — dare, care, share — open up conversations on the critical potential of risk, attention and being-with operative within artistic research practice?


A version of my presentation can be found here

More about the conference can be found here 

Project: Dorsal Thinking - a collaboration with Katrina Brown

Dialogue: When Seams Become Audible



I was invited to engage in dialogue with artist Katharina Fitz, as part of a forthcoming publication  that she is producing in relation to her solo exhibition When Seams Become Audible, which was exhibited at One Thoresby Street, Nottingham (11 – 31 October 2021).


About the exhibition: “In her show Fitz presents a series of objects responding to the Attic Gallery at OTS, with the works on display being the result of a 6-week long residency. The turned, pushed, pulled and suspended forms work as a reactivation of their surroundings, beginning to interact with the architecture and challenging our understanding of how we experience space and everything that comes with it. Here Fitz offers an invitation to resee these places we inhabit through fresh eyes, creating a new kind of imagined and activated environment. The physical engagement of the body is notably present in Fitz’s practice and traces of her creative method draw us into an exploration of the making of the works on display, where tools and jigs become part of the installation. Fitz imports studio arrangements and objects of process into the gallery in order to bring the intimacy of the artist studio into the experience of the audience. In her installations she prompts the viewer to rethink the making of objects, the behaviour of the space and how it could be animated, changed, or extended into something else.”

Launch: Language-based Artistic Research Practice Sharing



Practice Sharing (Winter 2020) is an online presentation of expanded approaches to language-based practice within the field of artistic research ‘gathered’ by the Special Interest Group in Language-based Artistic Research. The aim of this first Practice Sharing was to reflect how language-based artistic research is practised in its diversity, rather than to define or determine what it is in advance. As such, the focus on language within artistic research is considered from a broad and transforming perspective to include diverse fields such as visual arts, performance, film, theatre, music, choreography as well as literature; where language-based practices might include (as well as move beyond) different approaches to writing, reading, speaking, listening. 

Contributors were invited to respond to the following 'call':

1. How is your practice? How does your enquiry in-and-through language-based artistic research manifest in specific practices and examples.

2. Outline one or two examples from your own artistic- or practice-based research — focusing on specific language-based ‘practices’ (in other words: specific processes, approaches or methods; ways of working, constellations of activity or framing patterns; particular projects or lines of enquiry-in-practice)

 

Over 70 individuals and collaborations are included in the first 'sharing' which can be encountered here

Research Project: Thinking Aesthetic Thinking Through Aesthetic Research Practices




Alex Arteaga | Emma Cocker | Nicole Wendel | Sabine Zahn

initiated by Alex Arteaga

 

thinking aesthetic thinking through aesthetic research practices focuses on ways in which aesthetic research practices realize a specific form of thinking: aesthetic thinking. The aim of this project is to explore the following working hypotheses through aesthetic research practices as a foundation for different forms of reflection and dialogue between philosophical aesthetics and aesthetic research.

- Firstly, aesthetic research practices systematize forms of preeminently sensorimotor and emotional action, which are neither target-oriented nor will-based.

- Secondly, aesthetic action enables and intensifies immediate and unmediated interactions between researchers and the inquired issues, co-constituting a field of nonhierarchical, shared agencies.

- Thirdly, aesthetic interaction conditions the ongoing processes of sense-making between researchers and the inquired issues with the agency of destabilizing the habitualized forms and meanings with which these issues appear.

- Fourthly, on this basis, aesthetic thinking allows for disclosing new intelligibilities for the researched issues, that is, it enables the potentialities of radically new understandings to arise.


Since 2019, we — four artistic researchers: Alex Arteaga, Emma Cocker, Nicole Wendel and Sabine Zahn — have been working together intensively within a series of exploratory sessions or even ‘laboratories’, inquiring through specific aesthetic practices the concept, performance and conditions of and for aesthetic thinking. This exposition presents a set of aesthetic research practices, a series of "Ecologies in Action' (a set of interconnected aesthetic research practices in relation) and research artefacts generated through this research project.

 

See research exposition here 

Dialogue: Pause/Proximity/Gesture

Image: Marianne Holm Hansen

Gesture/ Pause/ Proximity

Conversations between invited groups of artists, writers, performers, psychotherapists and architects to discuss and collectively explore notions of Gesture/ Pause/ Proximity in general, Pause and Silence in particular, from within diverse practices and disciplines.

 

I was invited to participate in a series of conversations as part of a research and development project called Gesture/ Pause/ Proximity (November 2019 – November 2020), by artist Marianne Holm Hansen and curator/producer Orlagh Woods, to explore to what extent a greater awareness of non-verbal communication may enable us to develop more inclusive conversations [and, eventually, spaces for that conversation to take place].

 

The wider project, Gesture/ Pause/ Proximity, emerges from previous works and collaborations, as well as a shared and ongoing desire for practices that engage groups and individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds in equal and meaningful discussions. It aims to connect art, science and lived experience to question if, then how, a knowing and creative use of gesture, pause and proximity - in conversation and as conversation - may enable us to accommodate differing language skills, overcome language barriers and establish forms of dialogue that disrupt or resist hierarchies of speech, status and power.


More about the project Gesture/ Pause/ Proximity here