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. More recently, Emma trained to be a qualified yoga teacher, interested in how a heightened awareness of the body and breath, alongside meditation and attention practices, might be integrated into art-writing, artistic practice, pedagogy and research.

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