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.

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.

Cultural Borrowings/Ethical Possession:

Cultural Borrowings: A Study Day on Appropriation, Reworking and Transformation
University of Nottingham, UK, Wednesday March 19th, 2008

Throughout history, artists have appropriated, sampled or borrowed elements from pre-existing work for use in new cultural texts. This one day conference, in association with the MeCCSA Postgraduate Network, seeks to interrogate the nature of such cultural borrowings, looking at how we can draw together insights from across the disciplines in order to further develop academic models of appropriation, reworking and transformation. Plenary Speakers will include Professor Christine Geraghty (University of Glasgow) and Professor David Hesmondhalgh (University of Leeds).

Emma Cocker: Abstract
Ethical Possession: Artists and the Archives
The prolific usage or ‘borrowing’ of found amateur film footage and archival material within artists’ film and video, perhaps indicates a post-millennial climate of change in which artists are searching for and testing out more experiential or empathetic modes of engaging with both the past and present. Focusing on artistic and filmic practices that recoup or re-activate archival material by dislocating it from its original purpose, transforming and reworking it in pursuit of new readings, meanings and questions, the aim is to move beyond an analysis of the specific material and aesthetic properties of the archival experience to speculate upon wider theories and practices in relation to the connection between appropriation, technology, and the notion of ‘prosthetic memory’. Referring to writing by film theorists such as Andreas Huyssen and Alison Landsberg, it possible to suggest that the current use and (re)presentation of archival film material using technology, presents a unique context through which to explore a model of appropriation where it becomes possible to propose dialogic relationships with others, and a more engaged, politically motivated or empathetic recuperation of the past and of the present. The resurgence and urgency of such practices might be seen to reflect a conceptual shift in which 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. Representing a paradigm shift in the way that the past is encountered, it is possible to assert that contemporary practices have perhaps abandoned hollow borrowing or what might be described as temporal tourism in favour of a more dialogic or experiential encounter through the process of reciprocal or ethical possession.

More information about the conference here

A developed version of this paper has also been accepted as part of The Visible Memories Conference at Syracuse University, In New York in October

Conference Theme: The Visible Memories Conference at Syracuse University. The conference will explore the intersections between visual culture and memory studies with particular focus on the ways in which memories are manifested and experienced in visible, material, or spatial form. Examples of especially relevant and desirable research topics include: local sites of memory; memorials and archives; environmentalism and representations of nature; regional, national, or global tourism; discursive work on photography or cinema, digital media, and art installations.

Wandering: Straying from the disciplinary path

Download full text http://www.interrogations.org.uk/papers/e_cocker_wandering.doc">here

In this presentation I am proposing to draw on my interest in the practice of wandering as a means through which to explore selected ideas in relation to interdisciplinarity and interdisciplinary approaches to research. Referring to other theorists and writers, the practice of wandering and the geographical, spatial or navigational readings it conjures, will allow me to touch upon the potentiality or possibility, but also the problematic of interdisciplinarity. I hope that the motif or metaphor of wandering might bring to mind a diverse range of issues against which to think about interdisciplinarity including perhaps ideas around defamiliarisation and distance; disorientation and uncertainty; curiosity; translation and tourism; trespass and piracy; borders, boundaries and threshold zones; rights of access, belonging and homelessness; reclamation and regeneration; territory and power; invasion and control; even the migration or the diaspora of ideas and practices. Performed according to an ephemeral, unfolding logic; wandering is a model of enquiry whose findings emerge through constant (r)evolution, where observations remain in transitional flux or interminable disarray. It is a framework for encountering and understanding the world and our place within it that retains rather than eradicates the potential for uncertainty and disorientation; that emphasises rather than disables the interplay between facts and fictions, reality and the imagination, theories and anecdotes. The motif of wandering might thus enable reflection on the potential role of the positional and subjective, or the partial and provisional within research practice, re-inscribing them a value within the process of meaning making and the construction of knowledge.

CONTEXT: Interrogations Workshop organised by De Montfort University Faculty of Art and Design and Loughborough University School of Art and Design (supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council).
Speakers Emma Cocker, Nottingham Trent University; Professor Gen Doy, De Montfort University Faculty of Art and Design; Dr. Jane Tormey, Loughborough University School of Art and Design

For more information see http://www.interrogations.org.uk

Hidden Narratives

Hidden Narratives
19 Jan until 19 Apr

Susan Hiller, J- Street Project.

I have been commissioned by Dialogue to write a review of 'Hidden Narratives', an exhibition which reveals the narrative urge in contemporary art, exploring how artists create scenarios, characters or scenes in which the viewer is encouraged to construct their own reading. Hidden Narratives features work in different media by artists including Simon Le Ruez, Zarina Bhimji, Susan Hiller and Shizuka Yokomizo, and specially commissioned pieces by Kate Allen and Sophie Lascelles. The review will feature in 'A tricky business: the art of politics, the politics of art', an issue of Dialogue (March 2008 to May 2008) which addresses the idea of art as a site of protest and testimony. This issue of Dialogue examines what it means to be a politically engaged artist. What, if any, are the criteria in the first place – and who sets them? How do artists balance the competing factors of retaining a political edge and being free to pursue their own ideas, with the agendas of art institutions, funding bodies and commercial galleries?

"... A number of artists in the exhibition present domestic spaces or places of inhabitation as the location of these contradictory tensions. In their work they allude to relationships brokered or broken; to lives lived or imagined, to specific and at times ambiguous conditions of existence played out and negotiated between observers and those observed; between the powerful and the powerless. These strange proximities invite closer scrutiny as to the nature of the narrative played out in each context; further interrogation of the way that each narrative has been hidden or concealed. The gesture of hiding can function as an act of both repression and protection; of care and cruelty; of safekeeping and survival, but also one of guilt. Meanings might become lost to moments of individual forgetfulness, whilst selected histories are strategically denied – carefully eradicated by the slow creep of collective amnesia. Hidden narratives can speak then of both poetic and political motivation, where on the one hand they might defer fixed meanings in favour of the potentiality of fluid interpretation; or else signal the mute testimony of voices that have been wilfully silenced and existences that have been methodically cancelled out."

Read more in Dialogue here

Berwick Gymnasium Fellowship

The Berwick Gymnasium Fellowships: An Archival Record
Commissioned essays for forthcoming publication (Spring 2008)

Celebrating twelve years of operation, The Berwick Gymnasium Fellowships- an archival record, recently published, is the first English Heritage publication to feature work from their contemporary arts programme. Delivered in partnership with Art Editions North, the 160-page publication is rich with images from the original artists’ exhibitions along with essays by commissioned writers and interviews with the artists.
Image: Fiona Crisp

Extending from research that questions how the gallery space might be framed as a space of transitivity and contingency, I have been commissioned to write three essays (on Annie Cattrell, Fiona Crisp and Justin Carter) for the Art Editions North/ English Heritage publication on artists who have undertaken one of the Berwick Gymnasium Fellowships that are open to international artists. The publication intends to examine the outcomes and impact of the Fellowship, based on interviews with the artists. The writing specifically relates to the artist’s experience of the Fellowship and the work produced, but also in relation to how the gallery space or commissioning process might respond to or support practices which are open-ended or developmental, or which examine the thematic notions of the threshold and liminality. Each essay refers obliquely to the indeterminate border status of Berwick and also discusses how the practices articulate threshold or transitional perspectives on their subject matter. This writing extends ideas developed in other earlier essays and papers which have examined practice which explore the notion of the threshold; as well as the idea of practice as a performative process and the contingent nature of the gallery

Publisher: Art Editions North
ISBN-10: 0955747813
ISBN-13: 978-0955747816

Yes/No/Other Options

Host Artists’ Group
‘Host 8: Observatory’ *
Millennium Galleries

During February and March I will be participating in a project developed by Host Artists Group (HAG) as part of the city wide festival Art Sheffield 08: Yes/No/Other Options. Host Artists Group (HAG) is an artist’s group based in Sheffield with an interest in curating and producing art in alternative spaces and distributable formats. The project that HAG are developing for the festival ART SHEFFIELD 08 is different to previous Host projects. The theme of the festival, Yes/No/Other Options, addresses ideas of overload, burn-out, performativity and latency, and HAG have decided to work with the last two of these in this project. Rather than inviting artists to submit actual work for exhibition, this project seeks to make visible the act of production in the absence of the product, visualising the latency or activity involved in the practice of art making.

I am interested in how this 'experiment' might be used to explore other modes of writing and to allow me to reflect on my own practice as a writer, especially in monitoring the subjective or emotionally felt, or attempting to 'account for' my activity when so often this remains an invisible gesture. I am planning on archiving my 'reports' at http://it-is-not-that-easy.blogspot.com/

1. I have not been all that productive today. Today has simply passed by.
2. I have an ache in my left shoulder blade which is often an indication of production, or at least of writing something.
3. I think I may be deleting more words than I am writing. I will try and monitor the production output of this destructive process more efficiently in future.
4. Only eight emails sent yesterday which was disproportionately small against the number of times email had been checked. I am concerned about such moments of compulsive non-productivity and time-wasting. They do not feel especially resistant gestures
5. I am not at or in work tomorrow so perhaps I will make or do work instead. I must try and remember this distinction for at times this nuance becomes blurred.
6. I don't think I will be doing much work today. I am sorry. Production has been stopped for essential maintenance.
7. It is not that easy. There are certain things that I have forgotten to do. Certain things that cannot wait until tomorrow
8. I am feeling resentful as looming deadlines determine today’s actions. I know that it is too late to back track on commitments made at quieter times. Guilt and obligation have become the hardest task-masters.
9. I am wishing I had not been so eager. I am wishing I had said no.
10. I am afraid I am letting you down. I am finding that things are falling out of sync I am concerned that the efficiency of my own production has been compromised by the facilitation of other's actions. I know what I should do but I am unable to say no

More about the project
Host Artists Group’s project focuses on the process, location and politics of artistic production. Their piece is an installation of models and sound broadcasts which reflect on the activities of 21 invited artists. The ‘Host 8: Observatory’ comprises 21 semi-transparent perspex models, made to scaled down plans of each represented artist’s workspace. Each model contains a light, the intensity of which will be set to a level that corresponds to the artist’s own perception of their current productivity. If the artist is running at full power, then so will the light; if in a period of latency, then the light will be dimmed. In addition, the participating artists compose bulletins on the state of their current activities that will be automatically relayed and played back intermittently in the space. The project provokes questions concerning the visibility and evaluation of artistic productivity. The trouble with artistic labour has always been that, while the inner and outer pressure to perform and be creative is always on, standards for assessing this creativity are impossible to determine. How do you measure the degree of dedication, the quality of ideas or the intensity of inspired moments that define the creative process? While, for good reasons, artistic labour then resists objective evaluation, its conditions are not entirely subjective either – because they are shared. A lot of people make art, work under comparable precarious conditions and face similar pressures. It is precisely this ambivalence between the personal and the collective perception of artistic labour that the ‘Host 8: Observatory’ highlights (literally, and with tongue firmly in cheek) and politicises.

Host 8: Observatory is part of Art Sheffield 08, Yes No and Other Options

More about Art Sheffield 08 can be found at here, along with the contextual essay by Jan Verwoert

More about HOST