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.

Review: Words for Marking Time

My review of the recent ANTI festival in Kuopio is in this month's issue of Frieze magazine and can be read online here.

Conference: Re – (repeat, rework, rewrite, remember)

A proposed conference paper (developed in collaboration with Rachel Lois Clapham) has been selected as part of the forthcoming PSi (Performance Studies International) conference #17, which is entitled Camillo 2.0: Technology, Memory, Experience. The proposed paper Re(repeat, rework, rewrite, remember) will critically extend some of the debates and issues that have been emerging within our collaborative project, Re
Image: Re- Reader, Rachel Lois Clapham and Emma Cocker, designed by Marit Munzberg. 
Documentation of Re- (UNFIXED), part of UNFIXED, curated by RfRS at FlatTime House, London.

Re(repeat, rework, rewrite, remember)
Drawing on our ongoing collaborative project Re, the performance document will be reflexively interrogated as a specific ‘technology of remembrance’, an interstitial site wherein technology, memory and experience collide. Re – is an iterative performance reading that responds to and is reworked against the specificity of each invitation to perform; it presses on two writers – and two writing practices – coming together to explore process, product and performance (of text). Re – is a conceptual framework for collaboratively exploring the tension between improvised/rehearsed; performance/document; live/recording; writing/written, the visible/invisible states of not knowing within the performed act of writing, through the collision of spoken, textual and gestural languages. Each performance stages the archive (save as) of its own coming into being, which in turn contains the trace of previous iterations. The work puts into question the relation between rehearsal, performance and documentation by blurring the line between these phases of practice, declaring them unstable categories. Each Re reading enacts the making of its own documentation; the performance is also already the documentation of earlier dialogic thinking and making processes: there is always something that comes before. The documentation archives what is taking place whilst anticipating future action; existing as record of the ‘becoming past’ whilst intimating towards an unknown future moment, as a starting point or instructive score waiting to be inhabited again (differently). Reexplores the impossibility of singular, panoptic forms of documentation (and knowledge) that attempt to capture and archive the totality of an event, focusing instead on performance document as fallible fragment, where (analogous to memory) the shattering or splintering of documentation into manifold parts resists reassembly or recollection, remaining partial, incomplete. Counter-intuitively, perhaps, increasing the ways of documenting or archiving performance results in it being less known or knowable, less easy to graspevermore contingent. Fragments of documentation fragment and disperse any coherent memory of the originary event; overwhelming … losing … forgetting … editing something out in the process.  However, each fragment potentially operates as a germinal ground, a graft from which new or unexpected lines of flight might materialize. We will examine how failure or indeed refusal to fully save as can thus be generative, creating productive gaps for (re)making or reworking a performance anew.

Publication: Vlatka Horvat

I have been invited to contribute a text for a publication on the work of Vlatka Horvat, to coincide with her exhibition at Kunsthalle Bergen in Norway, at the end of January 2011. Horvat has invited a group of individuals – who she has worked with in the past – to each write a short text or a fragment about one of her works. Each person is invited to choose a single work or a strand of work to write about – it might be a response, an analysis, a point of departure to talk about broader ideas or connections. The publication is conceived as a collection of voices and responses, structured as a notebook of sorts, that attempts to speak to the cataloguing nature of much of Horvat’s work. The work I am proposing to focus on is This Here and That There.

The publication coincides with Horvat's exhibition, AS OPPOSED TO THE FRONT, BACK, TOP AND BOTTOM, at Bergen Kunsthall.


Vlatka Horvat’s exhibition can be seen as a stage in an ongoing process for the artist, since she is here continuing her long-term iterative investigations of spatial qualities and relations. With a well established artistic strategy, where the method involves picking the existing apart, cutting out, folding/bending or weaving together photographic, textual or physical elements, she creates new, fictive potential for the relationships between space, body and object.

For the exhibition in NO.5 Horvat will be showing a major installation, as well as several new series of works on paper. Thematically, she has focused her exploration around the concepts of ‘the edge’ and ‘the centre’ as both spatial/physical and conceptual phenomena. Inherent in this is the idea that edges connote boundaries and limitations, whether in physical conditions like place and space, or in social relations in the form of normative expectations of interpersonal behaviour. Not least, the edge constitutes a concrete, defining entity when it comes to image production, since the framing does a great deal to determine the reading and the status of the picture. What is inside and what is outside? Where is the beginning and where is the end of an object, an image, or space? The notion of the centre meanwhile brings about a range of related concerns, as physical and spatial centrality tends to evoke questions about power and agency. Working through ideas related to the middle and the margins, the center and the periphery in this exhibition allows Horvat to explore both the visual economy of images, as well as the broader political and social implications of reconfiguration of images and space.

Exhibition: Wanderlust

12th January – 14th February 2011
Bonington Gallery, Nottingham Trent University

A version from my serial project, Field Proposals will be shown as part of the exhibition, Wanderlust. Wanderlust presents a travel metaphor to mark out the places we wish to travel to through our work. Selected works pertain to a sense of travelling (whether spatially or conceptually), a speculative directionality or movement towards the future. The Field Proposals are an ongoing attempt to map or give shape to the conceptual landscape of a practice, where the identification of specific coordinates fails to provide any coherent or definitive structure, instead only revealing further zones of indeterminacy. The work obliquely refers to a process of mapping an indeterminate (conceptual) territory; the coordinates themselves often referring to processes of wandering, getting lost, border crossing, searches, quests, and the failure to arrive at a definite destination.

Background to exhibition: Wanderlust speaks of the places, real, imagined and metaphorical, that we travel to through our practice as artists, designers, thinkers and educators.  It invokes the desire to wander exploring the world as we find it, often straying from the path and discovering a new route.

 This exhibition is a snapshot survey of experimental practice across the range of disciplines in the School of Art and Design.  The works featured demonstrate the complex process of creation undertaken by practitioner / researchers within the School community.  Wanderlust is curated as a dialogic space, where varied and diverse practices are placed in proximity to each other, opening up possibilities of new discourses, collaborations and projects.  

Exhibition: Re- (Unfixed)

Below are some images of Re – (Unfixed), a new version from the iterative series Re – developed in collaboration with Rachel Lois Clapham. The work was shown at John Latham’s Flat Time House, as part of the exhibition UNFIXED curated by Reading for Reading’s SakeThe installation was presented in conjunction with a version of the Re- (Reader) (designed by Marit Munzberg). Re – (Unfixed) was periodically interrupted (or perhaps even activated) by a live reading.

Publication: Making Room for Manoeuvre

Ways of Operating along the Margins

Guide against guidesBeating the bounds Skirting the centre
As needs musterKnowledge of the marginsRehearsing spaces
Finding the gapsOn being left openGet involvedDrift
GleanBe GuilefulBetween you and me

I am currently working on a text for the forthcoming publication, Manual for Marginal Places, which is being shaped around the following structure (above). This project extends the concerns and format developed within my earlier text The Yes of the No!, in order to reflect more specifically on how an inhabitation of 'margins' or the development of marginal practices might be used tactically to undercut the logic and values of the centre - where centre signals towards both the major (the dominant order) and the moderate (the medium, the mediocre, the middle-ground). The work draws on various user's guides or manuals including (amongst other things): Baden-Powell's Scouting for Boys, Michel de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life, Georges Perec's Species of Spaces and Other Pieces, Krauss/Bois Formless: A Users Guide, various philosophies that seem to offer pragmatic programmes for developing one's 'life as a work of art' through the cultivation of ethico-aesthetic 'ways of operating' (specifically Deleuze and Guattari's conceptualization of 'minor' practice) and work by Detienne and Vernant on cunning intelligence (metis) within Ancient Greek culture with its attendant form of productive knowledge (techné) and opportune mode of time/timing (kairos).

My own involvement in the Urban Retreat project was as an artist-writer, where I was invited by Mellor to produce a text that would elaborate or elucidate some of the concerns and issues – the threads, themes and even theories – emerging from within the project. My text, alongside other fragments, materials, images and reflections generated through the project, have since been collated by Mellor as the basis of a bookwork entitled The Manual for Marginal Places (published by Close and Remote, Spring 2011).  

My writing was informed by the live engagement and participation in other Urban Retreat events and through time spent in the Barrow-in-Furness landscape, alongside an ongoing exchange of postal correspondence between Mellor and myself. The text was thus produced as a response to – or through – various embodied encounters experienced within Barrow – the challenge of ‘street training’ with Lottie Child; a dérive through the town’s industrial margins with Laura Oldfield Ford; looking for (un)likely nightly shelter with Mellor; waking early and walking bare foot to Piel Island, warily in the gap of time before the tide turned; a night lodging in the tenement flats, the once-residence of Barrow’s dock-working community; the inimitable taste of hand-picked samphire and of rosehip and of found yellow plums; mild sea-sickness; a fear of quicksand; the acrid smell of piss that hits you from within the many military pill boxes that litter the shoreline; the conversation about the best places to climb, whilst sitting on that curb, with that girl on a bike, when everyone else had gone.

Exhibition/Project: UNFIXED

Image: Rachel Lois Clapham and Emma Cocker, Re- (UNFIXED), 2010


2nd December—4th December '10
Reading for Reading's Sake is an ongoing platform for a discursive series of events that shift in geographical and conjectural location with each installment.

Flat Time House is pleased to host a weekend of events organised by Reading for Reading's Sake with David Berridge, Maurice Carlin, Rachel Lois Clapham and Emma Cocker, Patrick Coyle, Ella Finer, John Hill, Helen Kaplinsky and Stefan Sulzer

To read is to absorb, comprehend, determine and evaluate. These processes come to pass not only in the interpretation of a text, but in the perception of any given material. All material is data to be read, accordingly all material is privy to the particular positioning of a participant within a given time and space. 

John Latham understood books as symbols of fixed knowledge. The printed word, inscribed for its purpose in a particular moment lays unchanged, whilst the universe moves on regardless. How can artists reactivate the fixedness of publications and make the words move with the universe?

Contributors to the programme work with an attention to the publicness and privateness of any given reading moment and the activation therein. Certain discourses reappear across works in the show, most prominently: collectivity and singularity, text as score, pedagogy, haptic gestures, instruction and fallibility, displaced words, the mediation of one text with another, dissemination, dialogue, bodies of knowledge, publishing as performance, and the fixedness of the printed word. 

Rachel Lois Clapham and Emma Cocker

Re – is an ongoing, iterative performance reading that presses on two writers – and two writing practices – coming together to explore process, product and performance (of text). For UNFIXEDRachel Lois Clapham and Emma Cocker present a re-iteration of Re – that essays the relationship between performance/document, live/recording, writing/written through the collision of spoken, textual and gestural languages. This re-staging (of a previous performance, Re – Afterlive) attempts to re-activate or unfix how the performance document functions, where the disparate parts or fragments of documentation inevitably begin to fall out of sync, creating the potential for new connections and relations between the different elements of the work. Presented side-by-side, two monitors relay fragments of a performance, two facets of the same event rubbing up against one another: the promise of dialogue. A live spoken text fluctuates in and out of the installation – sometimes as a scheduled reading for an audience, at times unannounced, on other occasions silently – at first attempting to synchronize with the elements presented on the monitors, but gradually failing to keep pace over time.


Thursday 2 December 6 - 9pm

6pm Launch of GO WITH ME
Library of offprints * run by Helen Kaplinsky and Maurice Carlin

7pm Performances by David Berridge, Patrick Coyle, Ella Finer and John Hill

*An offprint is an excerpt from a larger publication. Please bring an offprint to donate to the library along with an instruction for reading to accompany this. Visitors are invited to borrow offprints from the library over the weekend. On Saturday afternoon there will be a discussion of readings made over the period of the show. Donations to the library will be taken throughout December

Friday 3 December 12 - 6pm

2pm Flat Time Seminar A discussion of John Latham's theoretical writings with Flat Time House's Mental Furniture Department

3.30pm Reading as Publishing Workshop and presentation by David Berridge

Saturday 4 December 12 - 6pm

2pm Screening of Stefan Sulzer's project The Reading Room
3pm Re - (Unfixed) A reading by Rachel Lois Clapham and Emma Cocker

4pm GO WITH ME drop in reading group to return and discuss texts in the library

Events are free and open to all. To RSVP for a specific event and for reading lists please contact info@flattimeho.org.uk

Over the past year Reading for Readings Sake have organised a series of symposia focused on reading, through artistic practice. Over 20 programmed events have taken place at venues including Spike Island, Bristol, Islington Mill, Salford 

Publication: Permission Granted

My essay Permission Granted has been accepted for a forthcoming issue of the online journal, Drain, focusing on the theme of Power.

Excerpt from Permission Granted ….
"This text is a reflective meditation on the power of a form of invitational yes that can be witnessed at play within certain art practices. It is an interruptive and potentially dissident species of affirmation that has a specifically inceptive function: provoking a form of thinking and being differently. This yes is an act of recognition, of being able to attest to or accept the existence of what had previously remained hidden or undeclared. It is the speech act of the witness whose testimony cannot deny what they have seen, that cannot be denied. Or else it can be experienced akin to the clearing at a film’s denouement when things suddenly fall into place; a flash of inspiration or illumination visualized as a light bulb being switched on, the Eureka moment of discovery or breakthrough. Yes signals a state of having found it, of having attained the telos sought. Yet, yes might also describe a gradual awakening or sensitizing towards that which has been ignored or unnoticed or has hitherto remained invisible, a sense of raising awareness or the finding of something that had not been consciously pursued. Another yes then, akin to the nascent clarity forming from within the mists of some dissipating fog. A form of affirmation that emerges hesitantly at first, where the declarative stalls to make space for a less than wholly certain yes, the slow ‘oh, yes’ whispered by the curious attending as events unfurl or are unraveled. This is a yes that requires some prompting, needing to be drawn out or persuaded, coaxed. Wavering at the edges of no, this yes requires the making of a commitment before knowing what that commitment will require. It asks for a leap before looking, a statement of conviction or of confidence made in the doubtful space before things have been fully resolved or worked through. Indeed, the yes of this particular text needed some provocation, some incitement; it had to be called. However, the call that invites or invokes the as-yet-unknown yes is not like the authoritative power whose permission sanctions only the already known or knowable, but rather operates itself as a form of affirmation. It is a hopeful yes that scarifies the ground, creating germinal conditions within which the unexpected might arise; it wishes to be surprised. The yes that invites rather than endorses is a call to action; it signals towards the possibility of an insurgent form of affirmation. Come on then! What are you waiting for!"

Background to Drain (Issue: Power)
This issue of Drain attempts to expose the cultural faciality of power, as well as manifestations of power as simulacra, which obfuscate traditional inquiries into its construction.  If power connects the virtual and the actual, how does cultural creativity channel or destabilize this connectivity? The corporate-academic-entertainment-military-industrial complex and its front-end, the global information machine floods us with images, and images of images, to cause sensory overload, and yet at the same time, acute sensory deprivation. Most of all, power entrenches a visual literacy that allows us to see only its style, leaving us unable to access other ways of seeing and becoming. How can we parody this visual literacy, and the speed, cadence and grammar of this power and its affects? If the simulation of power is necessary and absolute, can creative acts and molecular politics slip through the surveillance and desensitizing of territorializing systems? This issue of Drain invites artwork, papers, and other creative works to actualize answers to these questions and re-channel them into different connectivities, ways of becoming and conceptual production.

Publication: Field Notes - Extracts from an Event

Below are the PDF layouts of two text works, Field Notes: Extracts from an Event and Pay Attention to the Footnotes, which have both been commissioned for the publication, The Edge of Europe. Both works offer different responses to aspects of the ANTI festival in Kuopio, which I attended in September and October. Field Notes: Extracts from an Event is a 'partial' report on the ANTI festival seminar, Writing, Language and Site, Kuopio, 2010, which attempts to capture something of 'what was in the air' rather than presenting an accurate account of the seminar proceedings. Pay Attention to the Footnotes presents a series of postcards documented during the timeframe of ANTI festival, Kuopio, Finland 29th September – 3rd October. The documentation attempts to provide a tangential record of the festival, whilst testing a project conceived in relation to urban city space against the site-specificity of Kuopio.

More to follow soon.

Exhibition: Not Ready Yet

I have been invited to be part of an exhibition curated by Niki Russell entitled Not Ready Yet

Not ready yet

Tomas Chaffe, Emma Cocker, Tom Godfrey, John Plowman

16th January -  6th February 2011

This project acts in a form of 'willful irresolution'; it is not made ready in advance for a particular purpose. Housed within the extant architecture of the shop unit, this is a space in transition, between uses, and bearing its previous form before this is ripped out and re-fitted. We inhabit this space and rehearse a use, that is neither shop nor exhibition, but between uses. Physically and temporally they unfold within this space. Taped windows, a corridor, the option to go downstairs, 84 potential archives, removed mirrors and doors, newly installed 'cubicles', framed documents not quite complete, the option to return to the space later to access further parts of the space. Individual¹s presence, potential readings and objects weave together, and punctuate the space in different ways. There is an exchange of roles and practical purpose within the space. An ongoing expectancy provides the conditions of the project: expectancy that access provides something, expectancy of closure, expectancy that the shop might explode.

Not ready yet is curated by Niki Russell, and is the final chapter in a series of exhibitions and events in The Exchange Building, entitled 'Nottingham Studios Presents'

Preview Sunday 16th January 2011 14:00-17:00

Opening times Wednesday - Saturday 12:00 - 18:00 & Sunday 12:00 - 17:00

Location: 5 Smithy Row, The Exchange Building, Nottingham NG1 2DD

I am hoping that this might provide a context for further exploring certain ideas that have been emerging in recent projects around rehearsal, (un)timeliness, (un)readiness, futurity, kairos.

Proposal for Not Ready Yet

Oh, When: a research residency and archive
The extant architecture of a disused shop unit is approached as an empty or expectant structure, a thinking space for exploring the relationship between rehearsal and irresolution, for developing a nascent vocabulary to speak of the not-yet-ready. Redundant or disused shelves and storage units are considered as a found archival system, into which a not-yet-known body of research is called or invited. A research residency is proposed within the time-space of an exhibition, the details of which remain undeclared or unspecified; its direction unfolding only as the exhibition evolves. 

The attempt to archive or account for something that remains willfully unresolved or unready necessarily emerges as a somewhat absurd, impossible or endless task. Henri Lefebvre asks, “How many maps, in the descriptive or geographical sense, might be needed to deal exhaustively with a given space, to code and decode all its meanings and contents?” For the shifting terrain of 'unreadiness' or 'irresolution', the number of maps must necessarily remain infinite. 

More to follow soon.

Publication: Hives, Tribes, Assemblages: New Collectivities

My essay ‘R.S.V.P. Choreographing Collectivity through Invitation and Response’ has been accepted for a forthcoming issue of the online journal Rhizomes, entitled Hives, Tribes, Assemblages: New Collectivities.

Hives, Tribes, Assemblages: New Collectivities
In introducing A Thousand Plateaus Deleuze and Guattari famously quipped: "The two of us wrote Anti-Oedipus together. Since each of us was several, there was already quite a crowd." And matters only get more congested as their mental geography unfolds among landscapes traversed by herds, swarms, bands, gangs, hoards, flocks, packs, masses and multiple other collective becomings. This special issue of Rhizomes invites essays and multimodal works that consider new manifestations of and approaches to collectively, community or other multiplicities—whether inspired by Deleuze & Guattari or not. Topics might include: intentional (or unintentional) communities; queer convergences; revolutionary congregations; posthuman aggregations; cross-species collaborations; symbiogeneses; collective intelligence; fan groups and other bolos of shared enthusiasms; flash mobs; clown armies; temporary activist assemblies; sleeper cells; conspiracies and other collective panic attacks; lodges; covens; communes; clubs; colonies; coalitions; digital swarms; tribalisms; hive minds; distributed contagions; panarchies; new ecological assemblages.
Background to Rhizomes journal
Rhizomes oppose the idea that knowledge must grow in a tree structure from previously accepted ideas. New thinking need not follow established patterns. Rhizomes promotes experimental work located outside current disciplines, work that has no proper location. 

Text-work: Field Proposals for an Indeterminate Place

I am currently developing a new version of Field Proposals as a site-responsive proposal for Barrow-in-Furness as part of the project Urban Retreat. This new work entitled Field Proposals for an Indeterminate Place (No Longer and Not Yet) responds to the specific geographical and conceptual terrain encountered during a series of visits to Barrow-in-Furness. This mapping will also operate as a working model or drawing board for a piece of new writing as part of the publication Manual for Marginal Places, a project developed by artist Sophie Mellor. 


Publication: Being in Two Minds

My article 'Being in Two Minds' and interview 'Beyond Belief' with artist Ben Judd have both been published in the online magazine /Seconds. The interview has also been published in the online journal Soanywayin Issue 7Something and Nothing.

Soanyway is an international project centred on words, pictures and sound that tell stories. We interpret the idea of a ‘story’ very openly, in relation to fact and fiction, narration or implication, and structure or a lack of it. And we regard most history, theory and critique as stories about stories. The work is eclectic as usual, including writing, poetry, music, photography, painting, and video.

Project/Event: Invitation Only

Below are some images of the Invitation Only…  project at the Sideshow Book Fair on 30th October 2010. Invitation Only… brings together a series of book works, pamphlets, readers, scores – that operate at the level of the invitational, instructional or propositional, as potential provocations or departure points prompting future action or enquiry. For the Sideshow Book Fair these works remain invitations only: they ask to be perused, used and engaged with as part of the live event itself. Certain items may be purchased after the event: an exchange of goods is made possible only through the conditions set by an initial exchange of conversation. Invitation Only…  is a platform for presenting and engaging discussion around a body of work produced and curated by artists and writers including David Berridge, Rachel Lois Clapham, Emma Cocker and Marit Münzberg.

Image includes Emma Cocker's Field Proposals and Re-Reader (a collaboration with Rachel Lois Clapham, designed by Marit Munzberg - see detailed images below); Rachel Lois Clapham's (W)reading Performance Writing No.2 (Sideshow Book Fair), Achim Lengerer's Scriptings and WHAT IS IMPORTANT IS KEEPING IT MOVING, a one day exhibition by David Berridge.

Invitation Only was followed by a discussion event entitled R.S.V.P

R.S.V.P (Répondez, S'il Vous Plaît)

Presentation/Discussion. 6.30 pm, One Thoresby Street
Commissioned by The Book Mobile Project, a YH485 Press project for Sideshow

This event extended the ideas proposed within Invitation Only… by bringing together a number of invited speakers to address ideas relating to invitational, instructional or propositional forms of writing, text and language through the specificity of their own practices. Speakers include Emma Cocker, David Berridge and Achim Lengerer. R.S.V.P was presented in conjunction with a performance of Lengerer’s MODELS FOR REHEARSING THE SCRIPT curated by David Berridge.

Below is an information sheet with more details about the events Invitation Only and R.S.V.P

Invitation Only

Review: ANTI (for Frieze)

ANTI festival 2010
Various locations, Kuopio, Finland
28 September – 3 October 2010

Now in its ninth year, the latest iteration of the ANTI festival in Kuopio, Finland, continued to present site-specific work in the public realm, drawing together diverse live, sonic, visual and text-based practices over a single week in order to explore how artists working with writing and language navigate, read and inhabit the city. Whilst in previous years, ANTI festival addressed issues of site-specificity through themes such as walking (2009), the dramatics of domestic space (2008), body/site/gender (2007) or the relation of documentation to live(d) experience (2006), in 2010 attention shifted towards the ways in which language shapes and is shaped by both the specificity and non-specificity of its location or placement. If the spatial or geographical potential of a location is often fore-grounded in certain site-specific projects – where the term site often appears interchangeable with space – then ANTI resisted this tendency with works conceived in relation to both spatial and temporal experience.

Works such as John Court’s Eight Hours Writing used writing for marking and performing time, reflecting the durational properties of time passing or unfolding. The work involved the artist performing an unbroken act of writing, on a large-scale hardboard ‘page’ located on the floor of a school entrance hall. His inscriptions failed to accumulate into readable text, instead becoming less and less legible as semblances of words gradually overlapped and obliterated the previous layer of writing, producing a dense text whose repeated words – like ‘lines’ issued as written punishment – became increasingly meaningless or mute. However, rather than simply marking or measuring time as a clock might, Court’s durational text reflected an elastic experience of time (for both performer and viewer), where each passing minute felt stretched or moulded by the affects of compulsion, immersion, boredom or exhaustion. Other works actively marked, wasted, killed, lost or shared time through social acts of collective writing or reading – ranging from Holly Rumble’s intense bird-spotting assignments (One Minute Bird Watching) to the hours whiled away slow-stitching the lyrics to love songs remembered in the company of strangers (during performance group Toimintaryhmä Olettamo’s Embroidered Love Songs). 

Toimintaryhmä Olettamo, Embroidered Love Songs, photography by Pekka Mäkinen

Whilst these writings reflected the durational aspects of time spent, other work addressed the how – the intensity as much as the where and when – of writing’s timing: they operated according to the logic of kairos rather than chronos. Rupturing the flow of linear, chronological or sequential time, kairos signals towards timeliness: time ready to be seized, an opportune period where something could happen (or else perhaps be missed). In Everyday Opera Johanna Hällsten punctured the daily routines of Kuopio’s inhabitants with unexpected refrains of live opera, creating brief temporal apertures wherein the actions of selected individuals (the first blood donor one day, the last train traveller another) were momentarily synchronized within a live performance to the libretto and rhythm of an accompanying score. The potential of chance encounters and unexpected synchronicities also underpinned Sarah van Lamsweerde’s Instant Fiction, a real-time video dramatizing the actions of often-unwitting coffee-shop customers through the addition of looping subtitles culled from popular television and film. On one occasion, the recording of two rather bored looking coffee-shop staff captured perfectly the sentiment of the sub-title underscoring their non-action: ‘Why do we always have to do something special?’ 

Johanna Hällsten, Everyday Opera, photography by Pekka Mäkinen

Alternatively, some artists exploited the potential of bad or misplaced timing, where words spoken flatly failed to hit the mark. Like declarations of both love and protest, the apology is an utterance whose efficacy is dependent upon its delivery being made at the right time and place. Within ANTI, the apology became dislocated from the time-space of its originary recipient to absurd consequence: in GETINTHEBACKOFTHEVAN’s Weigh Me Down, a list of over 1000 anonymous apologies – ranging from the mind-numbingly trivial to the desperately confessional – were uttered by a lone runner, relentlessly observed undertaking a 12-hour long treadmill marathon. Alternatively, Heather Kapplow’s verbal communication during the festival was limited to the phrase ‘I’m sorry’; a singular statement of atonement following her previously failed relationship with Finland. Kapplow’s self-imposed constraint prevented the details of her relationship from being elaborated; the audience witnessed only the absurd labours of her attempt at making peace.

As with the apology, the art of stand-up comedy often rests in its timing. Not so in Johanna MacDonalds’ Badly Translated Stand-up, where an eight-hour set lost its verve through the hesitant translation of English jokes to faltering Finnish as much as by the overly-extended duration of the assigned task. Words intended to be delivered with urgency or intent became evacuated of meaning and meaningfulness, purposefully drained of their capacity to communicate or connect. However, for Caroline Bergvall, the event of speaking out of time or turn assumed a political imperative; her work, Flag Up, honoured the speech acts and activism of nineteenth-century proto-feminist, Minna Canth alongside contemporary Finnish artist-activist, Sirpa Kähkönen. Canth was a playwright speaking out against the oppression of women in society, whilst for Kähkönen the novelistic form of fiction and storytelling becomes used as critical devices for advocating contemporary radical social ideas. For these individuals, language operates as a tool for taking a stand; their words issue as the soundings of a dissident body speaking out or against – paradoxa. As for many of the artists presenting work at ANTI, the act of writing, reading and speaking has the capacity to activate openings or opportunities within the habitual continuum of daily life, whereby the conditions of a given situation might be considered otherwise.

Herein, perhaps, lies the dilemma at the heart of many site-specific practices in the public realm, for the interruptive capacity of the art event can often rest in its unexpectedness, in how unannounced it breaks with or ruptures the flow of everyday occurrences. Undoubtedly, it was the unsuspecting or opportune audiences  – those accidental or incidental witnesses, who were not purposefully looking out for the art  – that probably experienced the interruptive potential of the work most powerfully. However, there were times when this potential seemed somehow compromised by festival signage or the anticipatory gathering of an audience (programme in hand), whose presence often pre-empted  – and on occasion distracted from  – the experience of the live event itself.