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.

Ethical Possession

My article 'Ethical Possession', has been accepted by the peer reviewed journal, Scope, for a forthcoming issue focusing on ‘Cultural Borrowing’. Scope is a fully peer-reviewed online journal coordinated by the Institute of Film & Television Studies at the University of Nottingham. Scope is dedicated to publishing material of the highest scholarly interest, and work with a distinguished Editorial Advisory Board of academics and critics. For more information see http://www.scope.nottingham.ac.uk/

"This is a thoughtful consideration of the way that film and video artists borrow from, and re-present, found amateur footage and archival material; the essay provides an eloquent discussion of appropriation within contemporary art practice, anchoring its example to work by Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci-Lucchi." Reviewer's comments

"This is a beautifully written article that ... draws upon a range of salient critical positions – Bourriaud, Huyssen, Landsberg – to suggest a move away from the 'temporal tourism' of earlier models of appropriation (postmodern pastiche) towards more empathic models of engagement with memory, history and the archive." Reviewer's comments

"The essay is fluent, extremely well-written, and has lots of interesting things to say about art practice." Reviewer's comments

Abstract: Ethical Possession: Borrowing from the Archives
It is possible to witness a resurgence of interest in the act of cultural borrowing, in a way that is different to earlier moments of appropriation. I am interested in how this can be explored through the notion of ethical possession. The current borrowing of found amateur and archival footage within artists’ film and video can be framed as part of a wider paradigm shift, where artists and filmmakers are increasingly searching for and testing out experiential or empathetic modes of engaging with moments of the past and present. The resurgence of interest in found-film or archival material within artists’ film and video operates at a curious interstice in which a history of ideas relating to theories of production and consumption - copyright and ownership, the found object and the readymade - collides with debates around memory, amnesia and social responsibility. Referring to writing by film theorists such as Andreas Huyssen and Alison Landsberg, the aim is to explore how notions of borrowing, quotation and prosthetic experience are no longer viewed as indicative of negative pastiche or nostalgic appropriation, but are seen as re-politicized gestures through which to develop empathetic possibilities in a fragmented world.

Say the Word - “Non”

The short text below was commissioned to respond to or act as a form of 'foil' for a performance by Terry O’Connor, Frances Babbage, Steve Nicholson and Bill McDonnell.

Image: Say the Word – Non, from rehearsals

The performance was part of a project led by Terry O'Connor entitled 'Say the Word' in which she invited various individuals to submit a single word that she would then develop performance-based work in response to. This specific performance was based on the following:

"On 26th October 2007 the French conceptual artist Sophie Calle sent a single word to Terry O’Connor in the School of English.

S. The word was ‘No’.
F. Actually it was ‘Non’, the French for ‘No’, written N.O.N.
S. And Sophie Calle sent a P.S. ‘P.S. this is my word, and it is not a refusal- see already how ambiguous is this word, since I’m saying yes by answering no. If you don’t like my word for some reasons tell me, I have other words in my vocabulary.’
F. This word became the starting point for the performance today. We began by collecting instances of refusal, denial and absence from literature, history and our own personal lives – instances that contain the short and simple word ‘No’."

The performance took place as part of the festival www.urbaines.ch. The individual artist/curator Simone Aughterley who selected this piece is a choreographer based in Switzerland. She chose three women artists- Terry O'Connor, UK artist Fiona Wright and the NZ dancer and artist Kate MckIntosh (who was recently performing in Nottingham as part of Nottdance 08.) Previous UK artists at des Urbaines are Franko B and Marisa Carnesky

I was invited to produce a text that attempted to explore some of the ideas addressed within the performance (text below). I wanted to use the text as an opportunity to further explore ideas in relation to refusal and potentiality, which I have also been exploring in other work such as the essay 'over and over, again and again', and within a prospective phase of new research entitled 'towards an ethics and aesthetics of non-production, inaction and refusal'.

" ‘Non’ - the French word meaning ‘no’. Look up the word in any dictionary and you will be told of its negative connotations; how it functions as an interjection that only refuses, denies or seeks to cancel out. It is an utterance that stands in the way of things or that declines to participate - a form of obstacle or dampening down, like the stubborn voice of the party pooper or killjoy for whom the glass remains half empty, never half full. Or else it expresses nothing but a deficiency or dearth, a lack or absence, the failure of something to materialise. It is the response dreaded by the unrequited lover, the puncture wound by which a proposal gets let down or loses it verve. It is the final call that brings about an end, the cruel blow that nips things in the bud, the cut by which hopes and dreams and nascent possibilities are dashed and then wither. Functioning as a measurement, it is the marker of all that is nonexistent, missing or simply not allowed. Alternatively, when taken as an instruction or a rule, it is the governing voice of restrictive authority that tells us what not to do, which attempts to silence or stop us still in our tracks. Or maybe it is the calling out of the mother whose child’s hand draws too close to the fire. How quickly a term can turn. As a protective intervention it can be seen as an ethical gesture that wishes to keep the other from harm’s way - an act of care or of responsibility, a pledge, a promise, or a commitment made. It is a way of stopping one flow of action in order to allow another to continue or to develop; an interruption based on being able to conceive an imagined future and the consequences of each individual act. Whilst the ‘yes’ of surrender can signal the passive and acquiescent acceptance of the seemingly inevitable, ‘no’ is a defiant gesture of protest that refuses to give up or give in. It is the rally cry of dissent, the declaration that enough is enough, that a line has been crossed, that things have gone too far.

The binary logic of opposites thus collapses in on itself. Here is the yes of the no, which is to inhabit the position of no in a way that allows, opens up or enables things to move forward, to move on. It is to inhabit the position of no as a form of punctuation or as a momentary pause, as a space of refusal and of potentiality, as a tactic for creating time to think and re-imagine the trajectory of future action. Look up a word in any dictionary but remember that definitions can be irredeemably imprecise, for meaning is never still, nor ever wholly certain. Consider ‘non’ - the French word meaning ‘no’." 

© Emma Cocker, 2008.

Being in Two Minds

Forthcoming conference paper
As part of the 35th AAH Conference "Intersections", at Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester
2 - 4 April 2009

Image: Ben Judd

Abstract: Being In Two Minds
This paper will examine the notion of being undecided or more particularly of ‘being in two minds’, questioning how this seemingly pejorative phrase might in fact function as a critical condition of both artistic practice and the process of thinking more broadly, and how this can then be located within a wider interdisciplinary interpretative (and theoretical) frame. In my recent research the notion of being undecided - through the tensions of deliberate or ‘critical’ inconsistencies within an artistic and writing practice, through contradictions or paradox, through undertaking an activity as a foil for something else, through occupying more than one or remaining in-between positions - has become increasingly fore-grounded. I am interested in how moments of doubt, indecision or deferral within practice perform the live event of thinking between different positions, how they operate at a threshold of potentiality before options are closed down or forever fixed one way or the other. Referring to work by Bas Jan Ader, Vlatka Horvat and Ben Judd, I want to further examine the different ways in which a sense of indecision, duality or even ambivalence is inhabited within these different practices and to what ends. Here, a form of secular agnosticism – the doubt that a particular question has a single correct answer or that a complete understanding of something can be attained – becomes tactically deployed as a way of refusing to commit to any singular position, disrupting the binary relationship of yes/no, either/or, by preferring the condition of ‘being both’.

The paper was proposed in response to the strand titled 'Inconsistency', which is convened by Steven Gartside, MIRIAD, Manchester Metropolitan University and 
Sam Gathercole, Department of English, Queen Mary, University of London

In writing on art and architecture there is often an implicit assumption of a necessary consistency in the work addressed. A similar consistency is expected of the writing itself. Consistency is a measure regularly employed in locating value in the object or text. Security is sought in the consistent. All of this leads to the notion that work reflects essential and immutable elements that are directly identifiable with the author/producer, and this in some way assures authenticity. The pressure for consistency is one that is exerted by the terms of professionalism (whether that is the commercialism of the marketplace, or the structures that determine artistic, architectural and academic careers and reputations). The pressure for consistency is also one that might be seen to undermine the intersections of practice and theory that inform any action or statement (or, indeed, any gesture of refusal). Work that does not fit an established pattern can be sidelined as of little importance, even though it can often provide useful indications of thought process or method. It is also possible that inconsistency can be seen itself as a fundamental part of experimentation, and a productive way of exploring new ground. 

The strand seeks to question the notion of consistency as an illusional, or possibly even delusional state. It will explore all aspects of inconsistency in the production of art and architecture, its critical and public reception, as well as in the different forms of writing about work.

Somehow between the Water and the Wind

I have been invited to write a text in response to a forthcoming exhibiton, Isoli [cont], by Brigid McLeer in Coventry.

                                                   Image: Brigid McLeer, Isoli [cont.] 

Below is the PDF of my essay 'Somewhere between the water and the wind' written in response to the work of Brigid McLeer

Press Release

Isoli [cont.]
Works by Brigid Mc Leer Lanchester Gallery Projects, Coventry School of Art & Design
9th – 30th January 2009.
Isoli [cont.] is a solo exhibition by Brigid Mc Leer which brings together recent work, current work in progress and a related work from 1997 all of which explore contingency – as a method of production, an aesthetic form and as a way of thinking about subject formation. The work aims to question the notion of the ‘individual’ as an ideal construct, and to draw attention to the extent to which investment in the individual prefigures many of the more damaging tenets of capitalism. Instead it proposes contingency as a founding, and preferable, state of being and society. The works in Isoli [cont.] circle around a set of pieces made while on residency at San Servolo island in Venice (Summer 2007). San Servolo housed the Veneto region psychiatric hospital for 250 years until it was closed in the 1970s. The ‘islands’ (isoli) of the title therefore refer both to the literal island of San Servolo, the carceral ‘island’ of the psychiatric institution and the supposed island of the individual. Having a continual interest in process, Mc Leer’s current work consists of extensive, durational and laborious activities of solitary writing or drawing that translate particular sources. Strongly influenced by the systems-based, repetitive and serial strategies of minimalist and structuralist art, film and literature, this new work inserts into this pure, and often masculinist dream, a labouring, st(r)aining body, that is also producer of ‘images’- of reconfigurations within the contested terrain of representation. As with much structuralist and poststructuralist work, individual ‘expression’ is superseded through the use of procedural approaches. The intention however is not to evacuate the work/world of a subject, but rather to demonstrate the inherent interdependency of both. Many of the works use a rule-bound method to transform particularly chosen sources (texts, sites, images). This process is often recorded - in video, sound or still photography - and these ‘records’ are reconfigured to become new works in their own right. As such the figure of the artist herself operates as an equivocal presence in the work, caught up in the representational realm that she is also producing. Activities such as drawing over the moving shadow cast by the sun shining through San Servolo’s original hospital gate (Isola:Incontro, 2007), or the writing-out over and over themselves of all the words listed under ‘a’, ‘b’ ‘c’ etc. in a dictionary (Concise Chambers 2008), or the gradual erasure (using masking fluid) of every word, except the capital letter ‘I’s, in Kobo Abe’s 1964 novel The Face of Another (The Face of Another 2009), are all simple repeated procedures which not only develop complex reconfigurations of texts or sites, but also establish a temporal field of labour or production. In Mc Leer’s most recent, and most ambitious object-based work to date, The Face of Another (cont. version), the doors of a 8’5” corten steel shipping container become a free-standing ‘wall’ and site for the installation of 16 pieces of 2’ x 2’ hand-engraved sheet copper. The copper itself bears a pattern of interconnecting ‘I’s (taken from Abe’s novel) and the tarnishing sweat marks and hand-prints of the body that drew them. Together the elements invoke the co-dependency of the individual and high-capitalist global trade, at the same time as they perform new, and more productive versions of dependence. Contingent versions: archipelagos. Working through literal, metaphoric and synecdochical modes the work offers, and at the same time, disrupts signification. A name therefore could be both a person and a shape; or sheet copper could be a reflective surface, a quotation of a minimalist work by Carl Andre and a market commodity; or a videoed action could be a record of time spent working in a site and a time-based image entirely implacable and ectopic. In addition the work is made of multiple, interconnecting parts or series and in continually modified versions. So it is always work in progress and as such the defiance of the island/individual and/as the (art)object is encountered, contested and made contingent. Cont. The exhibition is accompanied by a publication with a commissioned essay by Emma Cocker.

Brigid Mc Leer is an Irish artist living in London and Course Director of Fine Art BA at Coventry School of Art & Design. She trained in Fine Art at University of Ulster, Belfast and Slade School of Art, London. Her work takes many forms including gallery and site-based visual artwork, image-text work for the page, critical and creative writing, and collaborative projects. Recent exhibitions include, group shows ‘Drawing Breath’ at Lugar Do Desenho, Foundation of Julio Resende, Porto, Portugal and ‘L’Isola Di’, at San Servolo Island, Venice, Italy and solo show Vexations as part of ‘Site Platform’, Site Gallery, Sheffield. Forthcoming shows include The Face of Another as part of ‘Curating Knowledge’, Alsager Arts Centre, MMU (March 09) and ‘Unspeaking Engagements’ group show curated by Brian Curtin and Steve Dutton for Chulalongkorn University Gallery, Bangkok (October 09).

The Shimmering of the Tipping Point

During October and November I was involved in researching and producing a series of pieces of new writing in dialogue with Katie Davies, who was undertaking an artistic residency at Sheffield Town Hall and Persistence Works. Katie Davies' practice investigates manifestations of language, the timing of comedy, and the spectacle of ceremony. For the residency she has proposed to develop a film work that looks at the performative dynamics and procedures based within the meeting rooms, function rooms and Council Chambers. The work will explore conventions of protocol within official, ceremonial and social behaviour that takes place within the Town Hall and will aim to explore the choreography of institutional conventions through the visual language of film. More about Katie's work can be found here

My essay The Shimmering of the Tipping Point explores how Davies' work often explores and attempts to capture the 'shimmer of a tipping point' (the point at which things oscillate or waver), by focusing on the nature of the ambiguous threshold zone between one state and another, or on spaces that are somehow liminal or transitional. An extract can be read below.

"In sociological terms, a ‘tipping point’ describes the moment of a critical turn, the unstoppable momentum of an emergent trend, the accumulation of innumerable minor factors resulting in some form of major – often epidemic or catastrophic – transformation. It is the final straw that breaks the camel’s back; the moment of recognition or realisation that prompts the declaration that enough is enough, that things have gone too far. It can be imagined as the invisible boundary scoring the limits of a particular belief system or moral code, which once breached might force the individual or collective to rise up and make a stand. It has been used to signal the point at which the metaphorical tide turns, the irreversible passing of the point of no return. Here, the tipping point designates a line of separation that distinguishes between the events of the past and a future way of being; it is the threshold where one thing suddenly slips into or becomes something else. However, tipping points can also be experienced at an individual level as those daily yet often imperceptible shifts and transformations that form part of the fabric of lived life. The term can be used to describe the moment at which a decision is made or an opinion changed; or the threshold crossed when you realise that you are no longer a child. In these terms, the tipping point is not experienced in the same tenor as that of the sociological model - as a clear or abrupt cut between one state and another – but can be understood instead as a pivot about which things turn; as a gesture of tilting that sets in motion. It is that which creates the interstice between one thing and something else; an interval of reflection that momentarily holds two or more possibilities in the balance where they remain equally present. Here then, the tipping point inevitably produces a zone of potentiality or ambiguity, a period of instability and indecision before a definitive choice has been made or a fixed stance taken. This is the shimmering of the tipping point, the point at which things begin to waver". 

Extract from the essay 'The Shimmering of the Tipping Point", which will be published by Yorkshire Arts Space.

Drain Magazine - ‘Psychogeography’

Images: Open City, 2007

A photo-essay of documentation from a recent project in which I worked in collaboration with Open City  is going to be published in the forthcoming issue of Drain magazine focusing on ‘Psychogeography’. The work will be displayed online as a slide show of still images in the Art Projects section of the magazine. A series of postcard instructions and the serialised essay (viewed as postcards in use in the public realm) will provide a critical structure for the photo-essay, which will also include documentation of collective actions undertaken as part of the project.

Investigating stillness

During September I was in Japan with Katie Doubleday from the Open City project for an Arts Council funded research trip, which extends the work I have recently been doing in collaboration with Open City. This will be a short joint investigation-led phase of research where I will be working further with Open City to explore notions of slowness and stillness, in order to ask questions about how space is conceptualized and organised, and examine the ways in which our daily performances are conditioned and perhaps even controlled. As part of this research phase we presented a paper at the Constructing Place symposium, which was part of the Dislocate festival in Yokohama. For our visit to Japan we also produced a number of new postcards, which presented a specific instruction relating to slowness or stillness on one side, and on the other part of a serialized essay in which I extended ideas from an earlier text I had been commissioned to write for Open City.

Image: Documentation of publicly sited postcards produced for dislocate festival

Within this phase of joint research we are interested in how both the shape and speed of our encounters with the world - and engagements with a given place or location- are often subjected to a kind of standardisation, where individual action is increasingly managed according to a regulated template - an agreed and endorsed temporal and behavioural pattern which we are then perhaps put under pressure to inhabit. We are interested in exploring ways of introducing flexibility, porosity or even moments of contingency into situations where our options for individual ‘performance’ might appear rather limited or predetermined, and in finding ways of creatively testing-out or playing with the expectations and demands of existing situations, suggesting ways in which they can be inhabited in different ways.

Image: Documentation of publicly sited postcards produced for dislocate festival

Our research trip to Japan was part of a period of joint research where we collectively wanted to further explore the possibilities of the different temporalities at play within the public realm, and to examine how movement and mobility might affect the way in which place and locality is encountered or understood. We were both interested in how different behavioural or performative speeds can be drawn attention to or inhabited, as a way of somehow resisting the pressure to perform or behave in homogenised ways. Our joint research as part of this phase of the project attempts to explore (quite speculatively) how moments of slowness, stillness, obstruction and blockage can be investigated to create points of anchor and location within the urban environment, affecting both a psychological and critical shift in the way that space is perceived.

Image: Documentation of publicly sited postcards produced for dislocate festival

At one level the dislocate festival provided a context in which to further consider the role of technology and new media in relation to these ideas – a frame of reference within which to think about the complex and often contradictory relationship between temporality, technology and the body. In one sense, technology has almost unquestionably come to be associated with the notion of accelerated speed and increased velocity, and has then often been discussed in terms of disembodiment and dislocation. In contrast perhaps, the temporal patterns of the body or of the physical world are frequently framed as operating naturally according to a slower pace where such slowness or even stillness is synonymous with or equated to an idea of embodiment and locatedness. Within this research we wanted to explore the point where the logic of these seemingly binary positions begins to collapse or blur, in order to ask whether certain technologies might in fact enable or even legitimise subversive or disruptive forms of performed slowness and stillness, and how, under scrutiny, these slower modes of spatial inhabitation can be revealed as a sites of perpetual and shifting meaning - where stillness is in fact rarely ever still.

Image: Documentation of dislocate presentation.

In our presentation for dislocate we wanted to test how spoken word and instruction (presented to participants using i-pod technology and wider publics through postcard texts) make it possible for different ideas and propositions to explored within the act of stillness itself, in order to invite physical, conceptual and imaginative engagement with the work. We wanted to explore notions of agency, authority and intention within the act of stillness. Through the use of the i-pods and spoken text (see image), we interrogated how the act of ‘being still’ might shift in meaning as it moves from or between different positions - ranging from a form of stillness experienced as a controlling or restrictive mode of enforced waiting; as a hopeful state of anticipation or of expectation; as an act of resistant refusal or protest; as a posture for quiet observation; as a tactic for disappearing or becoming invisible/unseen; as a ludic form of game-play; or as a site for contemplation or idle daydreaming.

Interview with Lucy Harrison

My interview with artist Lucy Harrison has been published in the issue of Drain Magazine which is focuses on the theme of Psychogeography. The interview was initially undertaken as part of my research for the article, The Art of Misdirection.

Image: Lucy Harrison:Guided Tour; Riga (2005)

Psychogeography: background to the issue
In 1955, Guy Debord described psychogeography as “the study of the specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals.” Debord’s psychogeographical map The Naked City (1957) challenged traditional ideas of mapping relating to scale, location, and fixity, and drew on the work of urban social geographer Paul-Henri Chombart de Lauwe’s concept of the city as a conglomeration of distinct quarters, each with its own special function, class divisions, and “physiognomy,” which linked the idea of the urban plan to the body. An important strategy of the pyschogeographical was the dérive, “a technique of transient passage through varied ambiences”. The ‘psychogeographical’ has had a pervasive if somewhat amorphous role in contemporary art and culture. As a creative, social and political tactic, wandering through psychogeographic spaces is pertinent to a diverse range of practices including the use of GPS systems, Internet art, photography as well as sound and performance art. This issue of Drain attempts to gather a series of essays, artworks and creative writings that reflect on the current state of psychogeography. How have contemporary artists, writers and thinkers interpreted, or been influenced by, the legacy of psychogeography?

PSi #14 INTERREGNUM- In Between States

See http://www.interregnum.dk/ for the context for this conference
PSi # 14 conference in Copenhagen 2008, August 20-24
Image: Heath Bunting, BorderXing

"Beating the 'Invisible' Boundary: Navigating the space in-between" is a paper I presented as part of the PSi conference #14 INTERREGNUM- In Between States, at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark from 20 - 24 August. INTERREGNUM is a term designating the exception, traditionally the period in between monarchs, but in a wider sense any state of disorder and discontinuity. INTERREGNUM thus does not only apply to a temporal break, but also to spatial in betweens or terrain vagues as well as to social and psychological states of exception. As a metaphor INTERREGNUM further refers to that which is in between disciplines, that which is interdisciplinary, postdisciplinary or simply ‘undisciplinary’. To investigate Interregnum of our present condition is to ask not about the fixed state of affairs but about the gaps between. Interregnum as concept will guide the PSi conference and focus attention on the brief moments of instability or surplus that exist between two sets of conditions. We ask what shapes the transition from one phase to another, what initiates a change in perspective and perception. For each of the three main days of the conference we choose a subtheme for inquiry that relates to Interregnum. The subthemes are:In Between States of Spaces/Geographies; In Between States of Disciplines; In Between States of Subject/Body. My paper was proposed as part of the strand - In Between States of Spaces/Geographies which deals with the upcoming of new spaces of belonging and of changing geographies. We wish to discuss how the concept of the nation state worldwide is challenged by both regionalism and globalism. New conceptions of both place and space are coming into effect as a result of these changes. How are our concepts of place and space, of belonging and longing, affected by the ongoing negotiation of ‘borders’? How does ‘place’ connect to spaces of identity? How is visual culture and imagery in general mobilized to reinforce ideas about belonging within changing and unstable geographies? How are we made to look upon ourselves as simultaneously situated and disconnected subjects? The concept of Interregnum addresses relationships and exchanges between cultures, changing geographies, and changing spaces.

Image: Heath Bunting, BorderXing

Beating the 'Invisible' Boundary: Navigating the space in-between
"In this paper I want to explore how certain artistic practices appear to tactically inhabit or play out a particular state of exception in order to then reveal, resist or even critique the increasingly limited or restrictive terms by which society and space are organized and controlled. New types of interactive and increasingly pervasive technologies are irreversibly transforming our understanding of public and private space, simultaneously delimiting and monitoring known environments, whilst creating newly imagined territories at the interstice between the real and virtual, the visible and unseen. Our engagement with the world is now shaped by and often mediated through the logic and order of invisible infrastructures whose influence and reach is difficult to discern. Whilst undeniably useful at times, these various locational, informational and observational technologies reflect a cultural context in which the desire to determine an individual’s whereabouts and scrutinize their daily (trans)actions has become both a private and political preoccupation. In one sense it is possible to read the increased and ubiquitous use of networked surveillance technologies, and the surreptitious monitoring of individuals’ actions through such technology as symptomatic of a more general extension of the structures of power and control used by governmental agencies in supposed times of crisis - the paradoxical infringement of civil liberties framed as a form of necessary state security. Giorgio Agamben refers to these increased extensions of power as states of exception, where individual rights can be diminished or even rejected at the authorization of a government during a state of emergency. Agamben goes on to explore how these so-called provisional or interregnum strategies can easily slide into prolonged states of exception, which can be then used to strip certain individuals of their rights to citizenship, reducing them to the status of Homo Sacer, a person who exists in law in a perpetual state of exception – a non-person, an exile, a declassified state. The terms of Interregnum thus afford curiously contradictory possibilities as the suspension of habitual rules and legislation has the paradoxical potential to both liberate and further enslave – where the capacity for an extraordinary increase in the authority of the structure is often exponentially, inextricably related to a diminishment of an individual’s power or agency. In this paper, I want to begin to explore how certain artists appear to upset the inevitability of this equation by attempting to disrupt or invert its rules, often using technology in order to playfully exploit the grey areas and loopholes between physical and virtual worlds. There are artists who appear to tactically recuperate the possibility of critical value or political agency within the individual state of exception itself – by momentarily inhabiting the liminal position of the wandering exile or by becoming invisible, as a way of drawing attention to, undermining or questioning the logic and authority of the system. Here, an individual state of exception is transformed from a punitive measure into an affirmative (or at least resistant) space of inbetweenness, exemption or even liminality that can be creatively inhabited – where the notion of exile is recuperated as a mode of wandering or of wilful unbelonging".

Interview with Vlatka Horvat

In November 2007, I interviewed artist Vlatka Horvat in New York as part of my research for the essay 'Over and Over, Again and Again', which will be included in a forthcoming anthology on Contemporary Art / Classical Myth 2009: A collaboration between Department of Art History, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore and Department of Art History, Lamar Dodd School of Art, University of Georgia, Athens, Greece. (Click here for more information)

Image: Vlatka Horvat, This Here and That There, A proposal for a performance by Vlatka Horvat, An 8-hour performance, August 24, 2007, 10am-6pm, A commission by the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) Berlin for 'nomadic new york' - curated by Andre Lepecki

An interview transcript based on a series of conversations is going to be published in the Dance Theatre Journal, in the Spring Issue, 2009. The essay 'Over and Over, Again and Again' (which the interview formed part of the research for) will be published in 2009, and aims to explore the notion of Sisyphean repetition in relation to a number of artistic practices from the late 1960s onwards. I am proposing to use the Myth of Sisyphus as a form of exploratory or curatorial framework through which to discuss a range of practices that appear to be played out according to a model of purposeless repetition; non-teleological performativity, or in relentless obligation to a rule or requirement that seems absurd, arbitrary or undeclared.

Dislocate, Japan

Working in collaboration with Katie Doubleday from the Open City project, a 'performative' paper has been accepted as part of the Dislocate festival in Japan,  September 2008. Click here for more information about the Dislocate festival. This part of my research in collaboration with the project Open City has also just received a 'Grants for the Arts Award' from the Arts Council which will enable us to travel to Japan and use the time as a key phase of research and development of ideas relating to 'Interrogating New Contexts and Methods for Public Participation in Site Specific projects'. Bringing together shared elements of my research with those of Open City, this research phase will enable us to examine three main aspects of our different practices:
* Specific areas of focus such as disorientation, threshold, flow
* The use of Instructions/invitations/propositions (in different textual and verbal format)
* Interrogating Context: examining the impact of cultural context, location and individual positionality in relation to these various ideas.
Image: observing stillness/different temporalities/research

Dislocate, International Festival for Art, Technology and Locality
September 2008 Yokohama, Japan
Dislocate questions our notions of place and location in the face of perpetual motion through multifaceted environments. The velocity of this passage is accelerated through new technologies, but as a result how does this impact upon our encounter with place and our attempt to communicate this to elsewhere? Through an exhibition, symposium and workshop series Dislocate will examine this encounter and communication, taking a journey through surrounding spaces andexploring our transient connections.Propelled through so many spaces with such momentum, mobility brings freedoms but also responsibilities. While in this state of passage how do we decide which spaces to engage with and what is our dialogue with them? Considering the locations we constantly carry with us, the interaction between the internal/external, virtual/physical, real/imaginary, our locatedness is multiple, fragmentary and in constant flux. Nomadic in structure the festival will focus upon our kinetic force through these various intersecting sites. Employing transitions by foot, bike and public transportation Dislocate will form an expedition into the diverse routes of the city and its hidden spaces, while questioning our relation to the ground beneath our feet. In this state of transit does our mode of transport isolate us from that which we travel through? Is there a destination? And how do we know when we have arrived?

As part of this specific phase of research we are interested in moments of slowness, stillness, obstruction and blockage. Slowness is often presented as antithetical to the velocity, mobility, speed, and freedom proposed by new technologies and the various accelerated modes in which we are encouraged to engage with the world. Slowness has in some senses been deemed as an outmoded or anachronistic form of temporality, as fastness and efficiency have become the privileged terms. Slowness is seen as a glitch in the system, an unwanted delay or moment of ‘poor connection’ during which things cannot progress as expected. Alternatively, slowness has been reclaimed as part of a resistant ‘counter-culture’ as a way of challenging the enforced and increased pace that things (including individuals) are required to ‘perform’, where accelerated and increasingly virtual modes of existence are seen as contributing to a sense of dislocation, disembodiment and loss of located-ness. Here, slowness is connected to the politics of the ‘slow movement’, where individuals have begun to ‘opt out’ of the system and ‘return’, perhaps nostalgically, to a slower pace of life.

We are, however, interested in exploring how slowness, stillness, obstruction and blockage operate within ‘the system’, and are perhaps as much a part of the city space and various technological infrastructures as speed, velocity and accelerated temporalities. We are interested in recuperating a value for these ideas, drawing attention to the potential within existing moments of slowness, stillness, obstruction and blockage in both the city and other systems; and creating opportunities for others to create their own spaces, gaps and pauses. Drawing on our different positions of ‘investigation led research’ we would like to present ideas and examples relating to this phase of research where slowness, stillness, obstruction and blockage have been used critically as a means through which to create points of anchor and location, or in order to affect a psychological shift in the way that space is encountered and understood

We want to explore the use of i-pod technology in order to create collective synchronised actions relating to slowness, stillness, obstruction and blockage. We are interested in how a synchronised group action in the public realm not only creates a moment of rupture or public spectacle that becomes witnessed by other publics, but how it might be possible to interrogate specific and at times conflicting ideas within the action itself – which become experienced by the individual participant. This specific work/research proposes to explore the threshold between the physically experienced and conceptually imagined; between what is publicly witnessed and what is individually felt. We want to test how spoken word and instruction make it possible for different ideas and propositions to explored within the act of stillness itself, in order to invite physical, conceptual and imaginative engagement with the work. We want to explore notions of agency, authority and intention within the act of stillness. Through the use of the i-pods and spoken text, we propose to interrogate how the act of ‘being still’ can shift in meaning as it moves from or between different positions.

The Hidden City

I will be presenting a paper with Andrew Brown from the project Open City as part of The Hidden City: Mythogeography, Writing, & Site-Specific Performance conference at the University of Plymouth, 4th October, 2008. Click here for more information about the conference

Pay Attention to the Footnotes: Interrogating the Hidden itineraries of wandering and writing in the Open City project. In this paper Andrew and I will both speculatively reflect on the use and possibility of text within the Open City, from the perspective of our own involvement in the project. In previous work by Open City, I was commissioned to produce serialized essay for a series of postcards were also used to presented specific time based invitations for collective actions. Produced over six cards where the tone shifted from critical or contextual to instructional and performative. Additionally a hidden layer of writing was accessed as online footnotes, an archaeological level to the essay whose location was only revealed on the final card. Here, footnotes were used to narrate the intellectual journey of the text; its lost itinerary that could be literarily followed. The postcards were intended as textual interruptions that functioned in contrast or as an antidote to the routine and ubiquitous instructional or informational signage that punctures public space, defining or in turn denying ways in which the streets are inhabited. More recently I have working with Open City as part of a presentation and research undertaken as part of the dislocate festival in Japan.

Images: Documentation of publicly sited postcard essay produced

The postcard texts formed part of a performative process, where they were publicly distributed and operated as invitations or provocations that could be approached either physically or imaginatively. The instructions or invitations ranged from the prosaic to the political or poetic, inviting the public to both to act and imagine. In this presentation I want to explore both the provenance and potential of different modes of writing within the Open City project by making references to a range of practices including the textual documentation of wandering (errance) within Surrealist writing; instructional practices within contemporary art, and architectural theorist Jane Rendell’s concept of Site Writing, which explores the situated practice of the critic-writer and a form of “active writing that constructs as well as traces the sites of relation between critic and work”.

Image: Documentation of publicly sited postcard essay produced

Arranged to coincide with Part Exchange’s week-long Hidden City Festival of site specific performance and new writing in Plymouth, this symposium will interrogate the varieties of, and possibilities for, writing in a site-specific performance practice that addresses the multiple narratives and trajectories of the city.

Mythogeography is the theorisation of an experimental approach to the site of performance as a space of multiple layers. This approach might include numerous influences and strategies, perhaps including the atmospheres and effects of psychogeography, and the deployment (both analogical and direct) of geological, archaeological and historiographical ideas and methods. It is self-reflexive in the sense that it would regard the performer as a similarly multiplicitous site.

Mythogeography is not a finished model, neither in its theoretical nor practical forms. It is a general approach which emphasises hybridity, but does not attempt to determine what combination of elements might be in that hybrid. The intention of the symposium is not to interrogate any one mythogeographical approach, nor even to engage with the concept (which, intentionally, offers nothing unique or original), but rather to discuss general principles and actual practices of multiple layering and hybridic assemblage of site and performer in relation to the act of writing site-specific performance.

While the everyday “performing” of the city is a widely accepted discourse in urban geography, so performance makers have increasingly engaged with urbanist ideas – from the Situationists, through de Certeau to Doreen Massey’s theories of urban space. “The Hidden City” symposium will review this relationship through performance writing, exploring what other discourses are available to the writer in the contemporary city. It will draw on a continuum of urban site-based performance writing: from site-inspired play texts and site-specific theatre, through the re-writing of the everyday, to delicate, de-materialised interventions. Questions to be addressed might include:
* How does the performance writer address the city’s invisible, marginalised and esoteric sites?

* What are the possibilities for writing sited in urban site-specific performance right now?
* Is there a continuum on which both urban new theatre writing and site-specific practice both sit?

* How does the performance writer address the screens and stages of the image-drenched city?

Wandering and the Public Realm

Commissioned essay/article for forthcoming special issue of a-n magazine focusing on art and the public realm. A version of the article can be read by clicking here

Image: Jiří Kovanda

"Wandering could be understood as part of a broader set of strategies within contemporary art that draw attention to the unnoticed, uneventful or overlooked aspects of lived experience. The ‘blurring of art and life’ is not a new concept, but what is perhaps interesting about the current turn towards the quotidian and pedestrian, is that it has been mirrored (even anticipated) by a wider engagement with the writing of theorists such as Henri Lefebvre and Michel de Certeau in other disciplinary contexts [...] (However) It seems counter-intuitive to view wandering according to such a chronologically linear trajectory of ideas, and an alternative genealogy that rescues and critically recuperates earlier models of ambulant digression or deviance somehow feels more appropriate to the range of approaches within contemporary art practice, which are more idiosyncratic and conceptually meandering than we might be led to believe. These other points of reference might include the genre of picaresque literature; the practice of ‘sauntering’ adopted by medieval ‘vagabonds and idlers’; the Romantic or even quixotic quest; the disinterested stroll of the flaneur; the surrealist practice of errance; as well as various conceptual strategies and propositions witnessed in the work of artists such as Vito Acconci, Stanley Brouwn or even Jiří Kovanda. For the gesture of wandering to have any critical longevity within contemporary art, it is crucial that we continue to attend to the nuances and differences between these divergent and eclectic practices, as well as interrogating them according to shared concerns and commonalities. Equally, in the attempt to ‘make sense’ of the current resurgence of interest in wandering, it is perhaps necessary to also acknowledge the worth of straying from or drifting between specific ‘interpretative’ frames of reference, alongside the value of the physical act of spatial digression or navigational detour".

While You Wait, Anachron-Gen

Review of the exhibition 'While You Wait’, by artist collective Anachron-Gen at twenty+3 projects in Manchester.
Read review here

"The exhibition 'While you Wait' by the artists group Anachron-Gen attempted to communicate the experience of the city from the position of the visitor, that of an outsider. The group were clear that this was not about the experience of the tourist visitor, the mediated encounter with a city determined and directed by various authorities, whose guidance on the ‘places you should see’ and ‘no-go areas’ inevitably maps out only a sanitised experience of a given place. To the tourist visitor, the city remains a polite host, but one that refuses to give away too many of its secrets; it forever remains at a distance however close you think you are. Anachron-gen were more interested in the perspective of the regular visitor, the liminal experience of someone who inhabits the charged threshold of being both inside and outside of a city or system, of being within and yet also remaining without. Here, the laws of polite hosting become relaxed, and the city begins to yield, drop its guard. The regular visitor occupies the same state as an initiand or novice - they have been given partial access to the unspoken codes and customs of a place, but do not yet have the status or knowledge (or responsibility) of a full inhabitant. They operate in a space in-between one order and another – their experiences hover at the point between the familiar and the strange, as certain zones within the city become repeatedly navigated, emotionally and psychologically mapped out and inhabited. Being a visitor in a city is like having only a partial grasp of a language, where certain meanings might indeed make it across the gulf of translation in one piece, whilst others remain incomprehensible; blank signs that remain opaque, incommunicable."

Read more click here

Object Action Object: Marie Cool and Fabio Balducci

Commissioned article for Dance Theatre Journal responding the work of Marie Cool and Fabio Balducci who are showing at Site Gallery Sheffield from 3 May – 14 June, 2008

Image: Marie Cool and Fabio Balducci

All Noble Pursuits

'All Noble Pursuits' is a developing list of impossible, improbable, abstract or absurd quests and searches. Drawing together the factual and fictional, the searches in the list operate at the point where ‘legitimate research activity’ collapses into the quest for rather more indefinable or speculative (or alternatively Romantic or even quixotic) objectives: the search for everything; final meaning; the real self; love; a third way; extraterrestrial intelligence; individualized therapies; a shared moral order; the perfect drug; hope, faith, and a six-second ride; the origins of his evil; the best strain of bees; the real and right; the missing science of consciousness; distant relatives; a patriarchal ideal; common ground; selective interventions; labour-saving inventions; treasure on a desert island; the Cheddar Man.

Image: still/slide from 'All Noble Pursuits'

This is an ongoing multi-format project which attempts to decontextualise and release the process of exploration from its teleological goal, by liberating existing searches from a sense of definite purpose, enabling them to remain irresolvable or unattainable.

Contradictory words seem a little crazy

I am increasingly interested in returning to exploring text as a site of practice or at least as a space for testing out some of the ideas I am interrogating within a range more conventionally 'academic' texts. There is the danger that I had begun to forget how important this (usually hidden and invariably sporadic) activity is as part of my practice. I had been thinking about the role of these 'other' forms of writing/text during the 'Host Observatory' project, when I had been writing semi-publicly in a different manner to how I might habitually present text. Below is a rendition of a rather old work, which I think operates in this hybrid space between a form of practice and a visual 'thinking through of ideas' which have become central to some of my more recent work.

Images: 'Contradictory words seem a little crazy', installation diagrams, 1997

Here, practice is part of a research methodology for other writing or thinking, rather than an end in itself (again rather like that produced during the Host project). It functions a little like the role of the Macguffin (discussed in other pieces of writing) as a vehicle which essentially kick starts the plot but then perhaps disappears from the centre stage. This particular piece draws on a quote from Luce Irigaray from 'This Sex which is not one', and was exhibited as part of Site and Sound in 1997 (Site Gallery and various off-site locations), and later as part of the Islington International Festival, London, 1998. Different coloured light unscrambles different parts and patterns in a grid of letters, allowing different meanings, hidden messages to be read. Manipulating and breaking patterns of communication, language begins to operate within a different set of rules. No longer carrier of meaning its lines of communication can be broken down, transgressed or somehow rendered void. The actual work was a shop window based text installation which could be viewed from the street after dusk.

Perform Every Day

Book review of Perform Every Day, Joshua Sofaer
This artist's book seeks to establish a relationship between everyday actions and performance. It encourages us to go about our daily routine, as if it were a work of art.

"At times, the line between the critical and the cathartic gesture becomes blurred. There is sometimes little to distinguish the self-consciously resistant or creative action from a form of involuntary survival strategy or ‘coping’ mechanism. Certain actions are wilfully staged whilst others are performed compulsively in order to simply get through the day, where they are used to create individual ‘meaning’ in otherwise meaningless situations. Imaginative projections and daydreaming arguably present one of the more viable options through which one can try to escape or subvert a given reality. Here, dreams of utopia might reflect the measure of an individual’s present dissatisfaction, frustration and discontent. Small acts of resistance are also a way through which to protest against the increasingly controlled and legislated conditions of existence, where they function as slight or quiet performative acts of societal rebellion that - though predominantly impotent, ineffective or insignificant - remind us still that we have some agency and might not always need to wholly and passively acquiesce [...] The book, Perform Every Day, increasingly made me think about the difference between instructions and invitations, between obligations and provocations, and about the difference between telling someone to act and asking them to imagine. Instructions can be nurturing or protective; pedagogical or didactic; authoritative or legislative. Too often there is a sense that they are offered by a ‘knowing’ authority where they are seen as something you should do for your own good (thus containing both a sense of threat and promise). I guess that the ‘invitation’ is hopeful rather than assured. Rather than abandoning responsibility by being told what to do, the possibility of acceptance or rejection reaffirms a sense of individual agency by allowing the individual to choose whether, in fact, they are interested or perceive any value in the experience being offered. The invitation that is to be imaginatively performed is particularly resonant because there is never any real way of truly telling whether (and how) it has been realised."

Read more here

Borrowed Itineraries and Retraced Steps

University of Nottingham, 30 April 2008, 4.30pm

Image: Stanley Brouwn. This Way Brouwn

In this presentation I am proposing to reflect on diverse practices which, in different ways, explore the performative model of wandering by following another (either in the present or from the past) or by following another’s instructions. I am interested in how such practices operate at a curious interstice between the conceptual paradigm of rule-based or instructional activity on the one hand or alternatively can be read through rather more psychologically inflected ideas around disorientation, depaysément and the desire for getting lost. I am interested in the tension as the ‘loss of responsibility’ or anti-subjective possibilities of working to a rule or an order also have the capacity to increase chance and uncertainty within an action, whilst the gesture of presenting a challenge to individual agency might paradoxically result in a reinforced awareness of individual embodiment and selfhood. Referring to a range of artists including Stanley Brouwn, Vito Acconci, Sophie Calle, Heather and Ivan Morison, Lucy Harrison, Tacita Dean ... my aim is to sketch out possible connections between surrealist practices and more recent interest in acts of wandering - in artistic practices from the late 1950s onwards and especially in connection to contemporary art. The presentation draws on a number of recently published essays which have explored some of these ideas including 'The Art of Misdirection' (2007), 'Desiring to be Led Astray' (2007) and the forthcoming 'Not Yet There: Endless searches and irresolvable quests' which will be published as part of Telling Stories (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2008/9)

Further information about the NIRVC programme click here

Recent presentations include:
* March 5, Anna Lovatt, (University of Nottingham), 'Self-Portraiture and De-Facement in Conceptual Art'
* April 23 : Ed Krcma, (University College, London), "Liquidity: Beuys, Drawing and 'Material Imagination'."
* April 30, Emma Cocker (Nottingham Trent University), 'The Art of Misdirection: Borrowed Itineraries and Retraced Steps'
* May 7 : Mark Godfrey, (Tate Gallery, London), 'Roni Horn's Icelandic Encyclopaedia'

Over and Over, Again and Again

Forthcoming Essay for anthology on Contemporary Art / Classical Myth 2008: A collaboration between Department of Art History, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore and Department of Art History, Lamar Dodd School of Art, University of Georgia, Athens, Greece
Image: Marcel Broodthaers, La Pluie (Projet pour un text) (1969)

Endless actions. Irresolvable quests. Repeated tasks that are inevitably doomed to fail or that are recursively performed – over and over, again and again. In this essay, I explore how the myth of Sisyphus can be used as an interpretive frame through which to reflect upon examples of artistic practice that play out according to a model of purposeless reiteration, through a form of non-teleological performativity, or in relentless obligation to a rule or order that seems absurd, arbitrary or somehow undeclared. According to many accounts within Classical mythology, Sisyphus was punished for his impudence and lack of respect for the gods, and assigned the task of rolling a rock to the top of a mountain only for it to then roll back down again. His interminable sentence was that he would remain locked into the repetition of this forever failing action for all eternity. Though the term Sisyphean is often used to describe a sense of indeterminable or purposeless labour, it actually refers to a tripartite structure whereby a task is performed in response to a particular rule or requirement, fails to reach its proposed goal and is then repeated. More than a model of endless or uninterrupted continuation of action, a Sisyphean practice operates according to a cycle of failure and repetition, of non-attainment and replay; it is a punctuated performance. A rule is drawn. An action is required. An attempt is made. Over and over, again and again - a task is set, the task fails, and the task is repeated. Ad infinitum.

In diverse examples of conceptual and post-conceptual art practice from the 1960s onwards, an artist appears locked into some hapless or hopeless Sisyphean endeavour - the blind or misguided following of another’s footfall, the foolhardy attempt to write in the rain, hide-and-seek games using the most infelicitous form of camouflage, the never-ending pursuit of an impossible or undeclared goal. Rather than an endless reiteration of the myth’s logic - where meaning remains somehow constant - the repeated occurrence of the Sisyphean gesture has the potential to be inflected with cultural specificity at particular historical junctures. Within the various practices discussed in this essay, the myth of Sisyphus is invoked in different ways where its meaning can be seen to shift, moving from (and also between) a sense of futility and of an individual’s resignation to the rules or restrictions of a given system or structure, through resistance, towards a playful refusal of the system’s authority. Here, the myth’s logic becomes pleasurably adopted as the rules of a game or as a way of revealing porosity and flexibility within even the most rigid framework of inhabitation. Whilst an interest in failure and repetition is evident at various historical and cultural moments, I want to focus on specific practices in order to stage and then shift between the possibilities of different readings, moving from a model of resignation or even resistance towards one of critical refusal, in an attempt to move beyond purely absurdist readings of the Sisyphean paradigm. My aim is to work towards an affirmative reading of the myth’s logic by drawing attention to selected examples of artists’ practice from the 1960s onwards, where the Sisyphean loop of repeated failure is actively performed within the work itself as part of a generative or productive force, where it functions as a device for deferring closure or completion, or can be understood as a mode of resistance through which to challenge or even refuse the pressures of dominant goal-oriented doctrines." extract from Over and Over, Emma Cocker, 2008

Image: Mel Bochner, Thesaurus Painting

Context - background to anthology: Ancient myth has always provided fertile ground for Western artists and theorists of the visual. Yet art historians tend to associate classical mythology with historical styles and only rarely with the art of the present. Indeed, current writing on contemporary art is, with few exceptions, curiously devoid of mythological content, despite demonstrable interest in myth on the part of several contemporary artists, ranging from earlier figures such as Louise Bourgeois and Cy Twombly to more recent arrivals such as Gregory Crewdson, Fred Wilson, Bill Viola, Ann Hamilton, and John Currin. While some artists’ work invokes the power of classical mythology explicitly, as in an expressly narcissistic video of by Patty Chang (Fountain, 1999) or an Orpheus-inspired installation by Felix Gonzales-Torres (Untitled (Orpheus, Twice), 1991), others gesture toward myth in more subtle ways, as do, for example, in Gerhard Richter’s mirrored installations and paintings.

Also of note is the preoccupation with myth on the part of several twentieth-century theorists and philosophers, all of whom have made a significant mark on the discipline of art history: Theodore Adorno, Maurice Blanchot, Hélène Cixous, Sigmund Freud, Herbert Marcuse, Jacques Lacan, Paul de Man, Louis Marin, Gayatri Spivak, et al. In light of these and other connections, this anthology aims to explore (and to some extent establish) the multifaceted intersection of contemporary art and classical myth. Essays addressing this topic may concentrate on a single work or series as it relates to a specific myth or on a single artist whose work seems driven by an overarching agenda, for which a certain myth makes a particularly apt metaphor. Essays that employ myth for the purpose of grappling with dominant trends in contemporary art are also welcome, as are mythologically inflected meditations on the concept of the visual art object as theorized, deployed, and constructed within contemporary art and culture.

In a sense, the essay returns to ideas touched upon in a review of On Kawara's Eternal Return at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham from 7 July 2006 to 9 September 2006.
"Undoubtedly, the decision to indefinitely repeat an action is no slight matter; and waiting to begin the infinite task must register with uncertain gravitas. The voluntary move to repeat a rather banal, or inherently meaningless gesture, as such is not one that should be taken lightly. Would Sisyphus have begun to roll the rock had he not been under orders? Even with the myth’s promise of the kind of transcendental happiness brought about only through such actions of eternal recurrence; a doubt persists. Would he have wavered, might he not have ventured forth? At some stage, the repetitious act will become ritualised or occupy the status of a habit but for some time it must feel at odds with the body, akin to the pain of trying to wear in new shoes. Even in this project there might have remained a hiatus between concept and action; a moment of pause or waiting; of human anticipation before the cogs of the conceptual ‘machine’ began to roll. Perhaps it is this, which registers in the slightly hesitant, uncertain strokes of ‘JANUARY 30, 1966’. For whilst the production or execution of a conceptual work might well operate with the systematic and impersonal precision of a machine, the decision to begin will perhaps always be marked by a sense of human, all too human deliberation."

Read full review at http://sites.a-n.co.uk/interface/reviews/single/368072

What is critical writing?

Invited contributor to an essay on critical writing by Chris Brown (Reviews Editor at a-n). Other contributors included John Beagles, Neil Mulholland, John Slyce, Joshua Sofaer and Peter Suchin.

"There is a deceptively complex relationship between the artist’s intentions in her work, the curator’s interpretation of that work, and the writer’s response to that presentation. Writers’ approaches to this relationship vary enormously, from careful negotiation to absolute autonomy. And, as writer and lecturer Emma Cocker points out, the context influences this relationship too: “Is the writing intended as criticism, as a form of critique or qualitative judgement; or an interpretation or contextual construct? Is it dialogic or responsive; academic or theoretical; performative or propositional; experimental or speculative, playful or simply a form of reportage that documents or describes a piece of work? ... Cocker's writing is often informed by conversations or interviews with artists. She states, "This kind of dialogue between artists and writers is not a way of simply clarifying the intentions of the artist that are then articulated by the writer, but is rather a space where meanings are proposed, negotiated and contested ... Cocker's interest lies in developing and examining critical contexts to frame an artist's practice, as opposed to passing a critical judgment of the work itself or "trying to rigidly locate its meaning or deny the work its inherent instability".

Read more on the Interface Section of the a-n website @ http://interface.a-n.co.uk/articles/single/379627

Dutton & Swindells - forthcoming essay

I have been commissioned to write an essay for Steve Dutton and Steve Swindells for a publication developed from their current International Residency at Ssamzie Space, Seoul South Korea

Steve Dutton and Steve Swindells have worked together on projects since 1998. Recent collaborative projects include “The Dog and Duck” at Kookmin Art Gallery, Seoul, ‘Emergency 2’ at Aspex Gallery, Portsmouth U.K, ‘Folklore’ at APT, London U.K. and ‘Txtrapolis’ at NAFA Gallery, Singapore. They have produced a number of books and publications, most recently, ‘Misleading Epiphenomena’, co-written with Dr. Barbara Penner, which was published in 2005 by Artwords Press.
"Our practice is self-consciously contradictory. Contradictions are a means to an end; they force a loop , which is neither open nor closed but united by a sense of expectation and delay of resolution. In turn, this delay allows something to be understood differently, indeed, it allows the very concept of understanding to be understood differently. We are tactical artists, frequently doubling, collaging, reversing and inverting found images, objects and texts with no restrictions on media. By consciously working through varied rhetorical devices and tropes, modes of production and strategic interventions we create installations and works which are both critical yet, necessarily, playful. Our aim is to disarm; to render an image, form, space or text, momentarily impotent and open (or indeed, vulnerable). In turn, this impotency opens up a reflective space in the experience of the thing which is implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, critical of power relations and expectations invested in it. The work is marked by tensions and lesions created within the conflation of faltering subjectivity and attempts toward a self -reflexive critical rigour" Duttton and Swindells. See http://www.steve-dutton.co.uk

Performing Space

I will be chairing and undertaking specific research in relation to this event, organised by my colleague, Frank Abbott
For more information Click Here
Performing Space
Friday 22 February 2008
Nottingham Trent University School of Art and Design
Throughout the world new types of communication networks based on wireless interactive ICT technology are transforming our understanding of contemporary public and private space.
They are increasingly being explored by live media artist projects through events like the Radiator Festival (Nottingham), First Play Berlin and Dis-locate (Tokyo). Within other humanities subjects like geography, architecture and social urban planning new insights into the changing nature of public space are being addressed . The research aim of this hybrid workshop is to bring together a range of humanities researchers and artists to examine how the common ground between these disciplines can be developed through examining ICT wireless network strategies borrowed from the work of artists; and conversely how the development of research, particularly in the areas of geography and architecture, can inform the artists` research and development. Arising from the hybrid event will be an account of where related disciplines of geography, architecture and potentially others can collaborate with live media artists and community cultural agencies in ICT led projects. The event will investigate how the outcomes of artist practice can pioneer new areas of engagement. This will specifically be in relation to understanding the technological changes affecting the nature of space in the contemporary environment and the value of engaging in such ICT led research activities.

I am hoping to develop ideas from the symposium into a paper which explores the practice of artists against the foil of the myth of Hermes. See posting on PSi 14: Interregnum: States in Between here

‘Still Unresolved’

Provisional Statement
I am involved in developing a research cluster at Nottingham Trent University, whose working title is ‘Still Unresolved’. The group is concerned with exploring the relationship between uncertainty, irresolution and failure to contemporary art practice. It seeks to examine how artistic practice might be framed as a temporal site of rehearsal and potentiality or alternatively as space for irresolution and doubt; by asserting a critical value for moments of provisionality or contingency within art practice and by placing emphasis on the forms of knowledge and research located at the level of process or the performative within the act of making. Whilst accepting the integral presence of these concerns as an implicit part of making work within most creative practices, in this context they become foregrounded as the focus of research, scholarly activity and practice itself, where they become strategically emphasised or explored at a level of subject, methodology and form. We envisage that research may take the form of network development, publications, curated exhibitions and symposia

Current members: Derek Sprawson; Emma Cocker; John Newling; Andrew Brown; Rob Flint; Frank Abbott; Terry Shave; Joanne Lee; Ben Judd; Craig Fisher

Telling Stories: forthcoming publication

My essay 'Not Yet There: Endless Searches and Irresolvable Quests' is going to be published by Cambridge Scholars Press as part of an edited book of papers selected from the three symposia, Telling Stories: Theories and Criticism/Cinematic Essay/Objects and Narrative (2009). The series of symposia Telling Stories was held at Loughborough University in February, April and September 2007. It included papers, screenings and performances, addressing the challenge to conventional expectations of meaning and objectivity emerging in modes of both critical writing and the visual arts. The resulting book (now in process) will address this trend, investigating the manner of narrative/counter-narrative, authorial presence, style, language and rhetoric across a range of contemporary practice and theory. Telling Stories will examine the manner and structure of narration across a range of contemporary practices (e.g. art object, film, photography, criticism) by scrutinising three aspects - the very specific form of the Cinematic Essay , experimental forms of Theory and Criticism and the Object and Narrative . It will aim to reflect the nature of contemporary art practice and theories that set out to encounter the world, its social conditions, its global perspectives and the nature of aesthetic discussion that no longer confines itself to form.

Image: Heather and Ivan Morison, Chinese Arboretum

ESSAY: Looking towards examples within artistic practice, I am interested in how the notion of an irresolvable quest might be reclaimed from the vaults of Romanticism; and redeployed as a strategic research methodology or framework for critical enquiry. Using the practice of artists, Heather and Ivan Morison as a point of reference, the intent then is to explore the irresolvable quest as a form of non-rationalist knowledge construction and meaning making: to assert a critical context or value for this method of enquiry where the possibility of irresolution and contingency; subjectivity and transitivity, partial truths and telling stories are redeemed alongside more empiricist methods of exploration.

The contents of the publication are as follows
Part One: Theories and Criticism
1. The Setting: Paradise Lost (And Regained) - Jane Rendell
2. Not Yet There: Endless Searches and Irresolvable Quests - Emma Cocker
3. Don’t Say Yes – Say Maybe! Fiction Writing and Art Writing - Maria Fusco
4. Talking Theory - Yve Lomax
5. Talk: Turbulence - Sissu Tarka
6. The Methodology of Mailmen: On Delivering Theory - Craig Martin
7. Never Work with Animals, Children and Digital Characters - Mary Oliver

Part Two: Objects and Narrative
8. Intercontinental Drift, or Frances Alÿs and the Saint of the Replica - Martha Buskirk
9. Curating the City - Robert Knifton
10. Appropriated Imagery, Material Affects and Narrative Outcomes - Marie Shurkus
11. Connecting the Unconnected - Lisa Stansbie
12. Text: Provisional: Performance - Stuart Brisley
13. Blossom keepers - Åsa Andersson
14. Narratives of Mastery in the zisha Ceramics Tradition of China - Geoffrey Gowlland
15. Unpacking my Father’s Library - Polly Gould

Part Three: The Cinematic Essay
16. The Melancholy Image: Chris Marker’s Cine-essays and the Ontology of the Photographic Image - Jon Kear
17. Playing with Death. The Aesthetics of Gleaning in Agnès Varda’s - Les Glaneurs - Jakob Hesler
18. Retro-Modular Cinematic Narrative: Jean-Luc Godard’s Masculin féminin in the Digital Age - Alex Munt
19. Transcript - Stephen Connolly
20. Who in the World: Essay Film, Transculture and Globality - Catherine Lupton
21. On Fog and Snow: Thought as Movement, or the Journey of the Essay Film - Laura Rascaroli
22. The Film is in Front of Us - Steven Eastwood

More information on the launch to follow soon.