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.

The Yes of the No!

My text, The Yes of the No!, was launched on 9th October at Plan 9 as part of their final event marking the closure of The Summer of Dissent. The text is the culmination of a writing residency undertaken during the Summer in Bristol in conjunction with the Summer of Dissent. Drawing on my discussions with artists involved in the programme, alongside my experiences of participating in many of the events (from witnessing Debord's Game of War to crafting a bow and arrow in the woods with Girl Gang), the text provides a framework and overview of the themes, concerns and issues raised by the Summer of Dissent and its participants. I hope to reflect on the value of the 'thinking space' provided by this kind of residency model in relation to my practice as an art-writer in a forthcoming article for a-n (as one of their commissions on critical writing).

The text is structured around the following chapter headings:
The Yes of the No!
First “Steps towards dancing solo”
Second “Becoming the cause”
Third If everything has been done, then what is left?”
Fourth Prepare for the unexpected”
Fifth “Make do”
Sixth “Know your limits”
Seventh “Embody knowledge”
Eighth “Fall beneath the radar”
Ninth “Am I bothered?”
Tenth “Going overboard”
Eleventh “Being in two minds”
Twelfth Without rhyme or reason”
Thirteenth “Bide your time”
Fourteenth “Opting in”
Fifteenth Hope springs eternal”

Below are a series of images of the publication:


Image: Pete McPartlan - Readers Block(s)- Mapping Misunderstanding(s)
 from the publication, An Assembling. ed. David Berridge

As part of the Essaying Essays project, I am including a new text work as part of the first publication from this project, ESSAYING ESSAYS: AN ASSEMBLING No.1.
Now available for free PDF download, featuring experiments in essaying from:
 David Berridge; Rachel Lois Clapham; Emma Cocker; Alex Eisenberg; Fiona Fullam; Alex Hardy; √Čilis Kirby; Jenny Lawson; Patricia Lyons; Pete McPartian; John Pinder.
Assembled by David Berridge as part of ESSAYING ESSAYS: A TEMPORARY COLLECTIVE OF READERS, one of seven projects by the FREE PRESS collective exploring economies of ideas and alternative modes of dissemination and exchange.

Download your copy here

ASSEMBLING adopts another project by Richard Kostelanetz in the 1970's. Invited contributors submitted multiple copies of their contributions, which Kostelanetz then assembled and distributed. ASSEMBLING is an experiment in temporary collective publishing, exploring relations of writing, publishing and print and online distribution. ASSEMBLING is published under the CREATIVE COMMONS LICENSE. The work (see below) takes the idea of 'essaying' as a trial or endeavour in order to compile a  list of impossible, improbable, abstract or absurd quests and searches. Each entry is a 'found quest' having been obtained from searching the British library database for publications containing the words 'in search of... ' and then attempting to edit or remove any real sense of teleological or measurable outcome. 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.

To try, to tentatively attempt
In search of (1) clues; (2) a new life; (3) a method; (4) quality; (5) a psychic economy; (6) the perfect stranger; (7) Enlightenment; (8) a gust of wind; (9) power and politics; (10) principles; (11) complications; (12) the dream people; (13) life on Mars; (14) a withering community; (15) love; (16) the lost; (17) the origins of life; (18) a guru; (19) animal consciousness; (20) a scapegoat; (21) God and some lesser tales; (22) mathematical truth; (23) remarkable trees; (24) silent spaces; (25) gold paved streets; (26) life on other planets; (27) the origins of art; (28) the edge of the world; (29) hospitality; (30) a permanent peace; (31) strategic performance; (32) the lost feminine; (33) the living dead; (34) Dracula; (35) a poetry of specifics, (36) thought, (37) matter and experience; (38) identity; (39) the real and right; (40) normality; (41) order in life; (42) the perfect drug; (43) wonder; (44) the true self; (45) great coffee; (46) cultural unity; (47) excellence; (48) the origins of his evil; (49) a non-dogmatic theology; (50) ghosts; (51) empirical evidence; (52) exceptionally difficult constraint satisfaction problems; (53) shelter, subjectivity and spaces of loss; (54) greatness; (55) common ground; (56) clusters; (57) an impotent man; (58) the meaning of sex; (59) madness; (60) universal values; (61) the human mind; (62) order; (63) true wisdom; (64) answers; (65) a glorious death; (66) rigour and relevance; (67) the teller of tales; (68) a symmetry bond; (69) human origins; (70) authenticity; (71) quality; (72) solutions; (73) more solutions; (74) solutions to the problem;  (75) intimacy; (76) infinity; (77) humanity; (78) a border pedagogy; (79) lotus feet; (80) a new world order; (81) the lost ladino; (82) prevention; (83) what makes us human; (84) the rules of the new games; (85) healing; (86) a better world; (87) Schr√∂dinger’s cat; (88) Schopenhauer’s cat; (89) connections; (90) happiness; (91) learning; (92) a cure; (93) the kite runner; (94) the good life; (95) flowers of the Amazon forests; (96) congruence; (97) a new state; (98) a role; (99) a past; (100) a deity; (101) liquidity; (102) an alternative; (103) meaning; (104) the hidden meaning; (105) our mothers’ gardens; (106) direction; (107) stability; (108) lake monsters; (109) ancient astronomies; (110) a new creation; (111) the melancholy baby; (112) Peter Pan; (113) the Pied Piper; (114) the secret of the universe; (115) genetic origins; (116) the precious pearl; (117) the inner man; (118) Europe’s borders; (119) the perfect house; (120) structure; (121) white crows; (123) silence; (124) the existential pathway; (125) magic; (126) integrity; (127) their conscience; (128) a script; (129) a character; (130) two characters; (131) proof of his existence; (132) the cheddar man; (133) the magic bullet; (134) text syntax; (135) light; (136) power; (137) wonder; (138) promise; (139) truth; (140) hot water; (141) the great northern diver; (142) a future; (143) a soul; (144) weather; (145) independence; (146) an authentic vision; (147) insight; (148) justice; (149) legitimacy; (150) legibility; (151) civic order; (152) a new majority; (153) control; (154) reusable rocketry; (155) human mastery; (156) an eternal identity; (157) an empire; (158) interplanetary travel; (159) world domination; (160) the earthly paradise; (161) inclusion and participation; (162) the conditions of life; (163) keystones; (164) autonomy; (165) reality; (166) self-knowledge; (167) security; (168) the secrets of sex; (169) English windmills; (170) aerodynamic stability; (171) the elements; (172) a theory; (173) the ultimate theory; (174) a new theory of cosmic origins; (175) superstrings, symmetry and the theory of everything; (176) comedy; (177) intelligence; (178) the Holy Grail; (179) autonomy, (180) democracy and development; (181) reasonableness; (182) responsibility; (183) personal fulfilment; (184) leadership; (185) ecstasy; (186) transcontextual criteria; (187) alien planets; (188) productivity growth; (189) moral authority; (190) competence; (191) balance; (192) medical certainty; (193) understanding; (194) an ultimate explanation; (195) public identity; (196) freedom; (197) authority and honour; (198) value; (199) biological origins; (200) the North West; (201) Elvis; (202) Eastern promise; (203) the pleasure palace; (204) the pleasure principle; (205) the substance of substance; (206) unity and integration; (207) the present tense; (208) a super-reality; (209) power and liberty; (210) lost knowledge; (211) comfort; (212) a populist modernism; (213) absolute zero; (214) the dream; (215) nonesuch; (216) utopia; (217) a rigorous science of philosophy; (218) a physiological signature; (219) a third way; (220) a historical movement; (221) ultimacy; (222) optimals; (223) the supreme principle; (224) individualized therapies; (225) what saves us; (226) life in the universe; (227) ancient DNA; (228) extraterrestrial intelligence; (229) a usable past; (230) modern human origins; (231) free energy; (232) new ways; (233) the essence of the west; (234) the ideal society; (235) a paradigm shift; (236) the good; (237) an ideal development model; (238) wisdom; (239) the gamma ray; (240) civility; (241) the missing science of consciousness; (242) the materiality of experience; (243) a patriarchal ideal (244) authentic words; (245) skyscrapers; (246) enemies; (247) allies; (248) a livable world; (249) who we are; (250) the missing gene; (251) endless energy; (252) healing; (253) Eve; (254) the Odyssey; (255) a unifying principle; (256) the missing mass and the ultimate fate of the universe; (257) a true self; (258) a new stability; (259) distant relatives; (260) the beginning of time; (261) substantive rules; (262) our beginning; (263) common ground; (264) practical solutions; (265) sustainable futures; (266) precursors; (267) a saint; (268) the miraculous; (269) shipwrecks; (270) vindications; (271) selective interventions; (272) the affluent reader; (273) certitude; (274) transcendence; (275) nonformal alternatives; (276) explanation and social relevance; (277) mental hygiene; (278) lost time; (279) plenty; (280) the foreign policy of the Bush administration; (281) reaction pathways; (282) a normative order; (283) the neutrino; (284) eloquence; (285) the last human cannonball; (286) failure; (287) sanity; (288) myths and heroes; (289) psychoactive drugs; (290) labour-saving inventions; (291) a cause; (292) open skies; (293) an audio-visual language; (294) non-relativistic systems with dynamical symmetry; (295) a permanent fixture; (296) the best strain of bees; (297) treasure on the desert island; (298) pastures green; (299) artificial intelligence; (300) hope, faith, and a six-second ride               

Below is a PDF of the publication:


nascent, rubric, Issue 1, Summer 2009

My text work, RE: WRITING  (NOT YET THERE) 1993 – 2009, has been published in the very first edition of the new experimental journal rubric. The text is a version of a work that had been developed within the context of the Critical Communities project. The original version will be published shortly in the forthcoming experimental writing publication, RITE.
rubric is a new, experimental journal discussing art, writing, theory, and the points at which they intersect. The journal operates in a curatorial format, with contributors asked to respond to a specific theme or idea for each issue. The theme of the first issue is nascent. A PDF of the journal can be found here.

Image: The Pool, Holly Davey, pp. 10 and 42, in nascent, rubric
Backgound to the Issue, nascent
"Nascent as beginning to exist or to grow, to emerge or develop, is our concern in this first instance. This instance, this primary point of origination which shall inevitably progress to a later state, to another instance, to that which-is-not-first. This is where we shall site/cite ourselves, in this process of transference, of being-in-motion, of Being in-motion, as be-com-ing or coming-to-be in this developmental schema which charts a growth or emergence…what are the implications here for a progressive development? Where does this development stem from, and how does it operate in extension from its originary locus? If this is indeed a concern about origins as such, is there a co-dependency between the origin and this B/being(-)in motion, or are the two distinct entities? …but let us consider this concern another way: what form of developmental scheme or methodology may be applied to the art-work as such, if – in terms of ontology here – the work comes-to-be through this process or application of this logic of emergence, at what point does -work become art-work? Does this nascent state promote a terminological evolution from one aspect to another? What is this state and how does it purport to function?... This question of production, of ductus, or presently of ducere, of bringing forth or leading into being, positions us in relation to the systematic state of becoming".

The full PDF of the issue, Nascent can be found below


Rite, write, rote, right and sometimes wrong.... 

Forthcoming in October 2009, RITE is the result of a nine month collaboration with Critical Communities, a New Work Network and Open Dialogues project exploring the practice of critical writing on and as new work (interdisciplinary and live art). 
Featuring the work of the Critical Community, RITE is a collection that brings together 18 original texts by UK based art writers that enact expanded acts of criticism, question the essay form, use language as material and attempt to work the different ways that writing can be on or about new work. 
Contributors include Emma Bennett, David Berridge, Rachel Lois Clapham and Alex Eisenberg, Emma Cocker, Hannah Crosson, Amelia Crouch, Chloe Dechery, Tim Jeeves, Emma Leach, Johanna Linsley, Joanna Loveday, Charlotte Morgan, Mary Paterson, Jim Prevett, Nathan Walker and Wood McGrath. 
RITE is commissioned by New Work Network, designed by Wood McGrath, edited Open Dialogues and produced by the members of Critical Communities with external editorial advice from Maria Fusco. It includes a foreword by New Work Network and introduction by Open Dialogues. All material is copyright the authors and Critical Communities 2009. 
The publication RITE can be bought here.

A review of the publication can be found here and below is a selected extract from the review:

“ … Emma Cocker’s piece, ‘Re: Writing, 1993-2009, 2000 words’ (p. 13-21), is a collection of 296 footnotes, including one image, separated by neat semicolons and displayed in small, professional-looking type at the bottom of each of seven pages. Phrases range from the art-typical, ‘(202) Pause is then a critical gesture’, to the romantic, ‘(269) The pages flutter like butterfly’s wings warmed in the sun’, and the psychological, ‘(255) Keeping certain voices at bay’. A curious attempt might be made to read the notes as a linear, or a dreamlike, narrative, however what is more useful about them is that they appear to refer back to a multitude of unknown/unknowable thoughts, texts, actions or observations collated by the artist. Footnotes become, therefore, a way of figuring those longing-filled gaps in contemporary criticism that initially provoked Critical Communities to begin writing for, and amongst, themselves.
 […] Both Record and RITE are broadly titled after their respective functions. However, both books spill quickly outside of their remits, working more as textual-visual performances or displays, rather than as critical, or even truthful, documents. In this way, Record and RITE, though very different publications, feel similarly romantic, desirous, self-conscious. This marks them out as books by artists. These books ask to be read differently, slowly; sometimes critically, at other times emotionally; with caution, with patience; with generosity and with pleasure. They show that paying attention to the ways in which artists use and expand text is particularly appropriate right now, gently to challenge and to refresh what is typically acceptable as art writing, both for artists and for critics.”