Emma Cocker is a writer-artist based in Sheffield and Associate Professor in Fine Art at Nottingham Trent University. Operating under the title Not Yet There, Cocker's research focuses on the process of artistic exploration and the performing of ‘thinking-in-action’ emerging therein; on models of (art) practice and subjectivity that resist the pressure of a single, stable position by remaining wilfully unresolved. Her mode of working unfolds restlessly along the threshold between writing/art, including experimental, performative and collaborative approaches to producing texts parallel to and as art practice. Cocker's recent writing has been 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 (Affect), 2013; On Not Knowing: How Artists Think, 2013; Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line, 2017; The Creative Critic: Writing as/about Practice, and as a solo collection entitled The Yes of the No, 2016.

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?