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 artistic processes and practices, 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. Cocker's practice involves ‘contiguous writing’ — a mode of creative-critical writing that seeks to touch upon rather than being explicitly about. Her 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, The Yes of the No, 2016.

The Communitas of Stillness

My essay 'From Passivity to Potentiality: The Communitas of Stillness' has been accepted in the forthcoming issue of the peer-reviewed online journal m/c. The issue is entitled. Still (more information below). The essay explores recent research with Open City on the notion of stillness and can be found here.

Image: documentation from Open City (Andrew Brown / Katie Doubleday), 
Radiator festival, 2009

“This paper presents the concept of stillness through the affirmative
 Spinozist lens of the ‘positive 
possibilities of life’. It expands existing research around this very
 fertile arena of 
trans-disciplinary thought by examining the affects of publicly sited 
performance […] A timely piece that 
addresses a certain mode of social engagement of vernacular life that has become a public platform
 for other activities.” Reviewers’ comments.

"For Emma Cocker, the significance of collective acts of still have the capacity to augment the affectual capacity of the body. Here, experimental practices of still in the city constitute events of resistance that disrupt habitual modalities of inhabiting the city, producing fissures within which new lines of flight can emerge. Such deliberative attunement through collective practices of still produces an affirmative model of subjectivity; a challenge to the choking assemblages of governance that stratify bodies." Editors' introduction

Referring to my collaboration with the artist-led project, Open City, I will investigate the (im)mobility of stillness as a creative strategy. I will explore the potential of an active and resistant – rather than passive or acquiescent – form of stillness that can be activated strategically within a performance-based practice; in turn producing conditions in which a radically dissenting – yet affirmative – model of subjectivity might be developed. Stillness is often presented as antithetical to the velocity, mobility, speed and freedom proposed by new technologies and the various accelerated modes by which we are encouraged to engage with the world. Stillness and slowness have been deemed outmoded or anachronistic forms of mobility, as fastness and efficiency have become the privileged terms. Alternatively, stillness has been reclaimed within a resistant – or at least reactive – “counter-culture” for challenging the enforced and increased pace that we are required to perform. Rather than focusing on a model of stillness based on the attempt to ‘opt out’ of the accelerated time-zones, mobilities and narratives of contemporary capitalism – the move towards a more spiritual or meditative existence by removal or denial of contemporary societal pressures – this paper will explore the potential within forms of stillness specifically produced in and by contemporary capitalism, by reflecting on how they might be (re)inhabited as sites of critical action. With reference to the writing of Gilles Deleuze – especially in relation to Spinoza’s Ethics – I want to explore how the asignifying or affective possibilities produced by the collective performance of stillness can be understood as a mode of playful resistance to or refusal of habitual social norms; additionally producing the germinal conditions for a nascent community of experience no longer bound by existing protocol, a model of “communitas” emerging from the shared act of being still.

Background to the issue 'Still'
A topology of stillness haunts the space of flows. Against a backdrop of increasing research in mobilities and the mobilisation of forces of all kinds, in this issue of M/C Journal we seek submissions that attend to and reflect upon stillness. 'Still' might be many things: stillness as descriptor of a particular form of action, behaviour or disposition; stillness in an object sense; or still as in an action - to become still. This multiplicity, in turn, prompts many questions. How much effort is required to remain still or keep other bodies, things or ideas still? What might it be to think through 'still' not as a coherent and singular being-in-the-world, but something that is more fluid, diverse, fragmented and splintered? As such, what are some of the various configurations, vocabularies and politics of stillness?

Perhaps this could involve stillness as a strategy, such as to ignore or dissipate the actions of others. In the writings of idlers, or in the actions of those who refuse or cannot move into lives of permanent transit, we can see the actions of still. Here, stillness might emerge as a particular capacity in order to achieve something - where stillness becomes a productive tool rather than apprehended as a weak form of action. Alternatively, there is the still implied by delegation that comes about through trust in objects or various dispositions of delegation. Can we think about still as form of Spinozian pact, or a collective suspension? Stillness might be restorative whereby rest or being still assists with the activities of the day. Is mesmeric, dreamy stillness different from radical stillness? What about stillness that is, paradoxically, active - where it is willed, coerced or designed? What about a more passive stillness that is not willed intentionally by the body? What do these different forms of 'still' do to the body? What do they demand from the body? What are some of the bodily shapes and comportments that are associated with different forms of being or doing 'still'? And since they are not mutually discrete, how are different stills related to each other?

Still in the social sciences has often been a limited antithetical relation with life, animation and ineluctability of perpetual motion: it is the arrest of photography, or the limit of a frame. Perhaps in Walter Benjamin's phrase the 'archaic stillness' of text we see the power of stillness moving through time, but on the whole, still has enduring pejorative associations with passivity, the feminine and notions of negation. In this issue we seek to expand, recuperate and explore further stillness beyond these narrow affiliations. What does an appreciation of still do to our understanding of action and practice? As Paul Harrison claims, perhaps stillness is a necessary and 'intrinsic rather than contingent aspect of activity'. For instance, contemporary networked infrastructures produce subjectivities and ontologies in which the relation of stillness to movement is not binary or negative but fully integrated into the processes, aesthetics and politics of mobility. Stillness in all its forms is more critical in contemporary life, by virtue of and not despite, increased mobility. And yet stillness remains more or less unexplored. In this issue of M/C Journal we ask what, then, is significant about still?