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.

Site Platform: Into the fray

Image: Hester Reeve, 'The Applause', 2006.

See http://www.sitegallery.org//content_repository/Platform_2006_text.pdf.
Commissioned essay in response to work by Evangelia Basdekis, Michael Graham, Duncan Higgins, Hester Reeve, who exhibited as part of Site Platform at Site Gallery, 2006, where the gallery space was used to undertake performative, durational, cumulative, experimental, in progress or interactive work. The essay proposes the metaphor of ‘fray’ as a loose construct through which to discuss the series of events and exhibitions presented as part of Site Platform (2006). Fray is a gesture of unravelling and undoing the already known; a situation of stress or rupture through which to break the illusory surface of a given reality; an act of disruption that causes the breakdown of substances or situations to reveal their constituent elements and hidden structures. A fray signals the indeterminate threshold where one thing collapses and another begins: it is a moment of instability, transition or flux. I am interested in the frayed edge of practice where the art stops and starts; in the idea of fray as an analogy for irresolution or open-endedness within practice; and in the sense of practices both responding to and affecting a fray/glitch in the way that world is encountered. The notion of ‘fray’ is adopted as a construct or model through which to connect the separate projects by the artists in Platform: Duncan Higgins, Michael Graham, Hester Reeve, and Evangelia Basdekis.

"Language can be irredeemably imprecise. In the realm of artistic practice the same word can signal both a spatial form and a temporal event, describing a process of creation or construction and yet also the material nature of the resulting artefact. Picture … Stitch … Stage … Frame … Film … Trace … Map … Crease. Other terms conjure multiple connotations, serving more like double agents or saboteurs that perpetually undercut the possibility of one potential meaning with the presence of another. Object for example suggests something concrete that can be seen or touched, and yet equally sounds out as the rally cry of dissent, the motivation to fuel all insurgent provocation. Meaning is thus never still, nor ever wholly certain. Within Georges Bataille’s Critical Dictionary there is always a double use for language, such that the term formless for instance not only works as an adjective pertaining to ambiguity or shapelessness, but can also be performed as an operation that declassifies or ‘brings things down’. Fray is perhaps another such term. At a material level it is used to indicate a tear or worn area of fabric: the point at which a garment begins to collapse and become useless or the moment where the continuity of a textile surface is broken or put under strain. Fray is also a site of skirmish, a sign of contestation or crisis. Emotionally or psychologically it speaks of nerves jangling; tensions rising; of patience stretched and of the endured action pushed to the limit.

A fray can metaphorically signal instability of the conceptual as well as physical kind where analogous to the Greek notion of aporia it might describe a zone of working doubt or of irresolution. Akin to the garment cast aside mid-stitch, logic might become frayed, relinquishing its temporary shape to fall formless to the floor in abject tangles. However whilst seemingly undesirable, the fray remains an irresistible tease - a site of seduction and delinquency that demands attention. For who hasn’t at some point succumbed to the curious temptation of the loose thread; felt the moment of simultaneous violence and pleasure as the weave irreversibly unravels. Or else might have worried at the incomplete and fuzzy edges of a narrative until the hidden secret is finally disclosed. A fray can thus be seen as a gesture of undoing or spoiling the habitual or already known; a period of stress which breaks through the illusory surface of a given reality; an act of disruption that causes the breakdown of substances or situations to reveal their constituent elements, their hidden order"

Read the full essay http://www.sitegallery.org//content_repository/Platform_2006_text.pdf

The essay extends or responds to ideas explored in an earlier article in a-n magazine. Read the full review at http://sites.a-n.co.uk/interface/reviews/single/335623