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.

Publication: Peep/Show: a Taxonomic Exercise in Textual and Visual Seriality

“We suggest a fluid taxonomy. We would rather set things on fire than carve them in stone” –Lynn Behrendt and Anne Gorrick.

The full text (no.1 – 10) produced as part of my collaboration with Open City, has been published as the inaugural text for the 2nd Issue of Peep/Show: a Taxonomic Exercise in Textual and Visual Seriality , an electronic publishing adventure curated by US based poets/writers Lynn Behrendt and Anne Gorrick. Behrendt and Gorrick had seen the ‘Field Proposals’ I had produced as part of ‘Field Station’ and invited me to submit a text work which worked on the principles of ‘seriality’ or of an ‘unfolding’. I was struck by a particular statement made by the curators of this project (above) as well as the idea of a publication dedicated to an 'unfolding'.

“Our second issue of Peep/Show is built around the sense that anything can happen when you put a lion-tamer and a human cannonball in the same room. It's about possibility, about disease we've never seen before, a viral opening, traveling on a train to the next town, reinvention, a deliberate reincarnation, the unfounded assumption that everything isn't already written, and the show that emerges from that dystopic assumption.”

PEEP/SHOW is an electronic poetry publication of previously unpublished work by contemporary innovative writers. A new taxonomic category is presented every five months or so, and unfolds over the course of time, with a large chunk of serially-minded work by a different poet added every few weeks.

Possible uses and manipulation of constrained space
Just whose guided gaze?
fixed vantage point / hiding behind vs. exposing / reading vs. looking
a forbidden secret: a poem
Through a hole into a vast scene, a panorama in a box
Stereoscope, viewmaster, camera obscura
serial unfolding
........to be continued as it occurs

Projects: drawing … walking … failing

I have recently been invited to participate in a number of proposed AHRC projects which in diverse ways extend some of the concerns emerging in my current research practice specifically in relation to failure, drawing and walking. These projects include the proposed research network bid 'The Art of Failure' (Laura Cull and Cormac Power); 'Oh how drawing thinks itself in me' (Helena Goldwater, Lucia King, Hester Reeve, Pak Keung Wan) and 'Walking Women' (Dee Hedden and Cathy Turner). More to follow as/when these projects develop.

Essay/text: Inbindable Volume

I have been invited to produce a text for a publication in conjunction with Inbindable Volume, an ambitious new multi-screen video installation by Karin Kihlberg & Reuben Henry. I am specifically interested in the term 'inbindable', and hope the text may provide a space to explore strategies - of elasticity, porosity, mobility, fragmentation, dispersal (even wildness) - whereby a set of ideas might evade or elude capture or containment. 

Information about Inbindable Volume
Inbindable Volume is a multi-screen video installation dealing with the journey between the conception of an idea, its materialisation and eventual decomposition/decommission, using architecture and books as its central motifs. The multiple screens journey through the Brutalist space of an empty library interior that unfolds in an assemblage of tracking shots. The concrete physicality of the architecture is sensuously rendered against the unseen imagined spaces alluded to within the books held in the space; drawing a parallel, perhaps, to Jorge Luis Borges' short story The Library of Babel in which the author imagines an infinite number of hexagonal libraries containing books with every possible ordering of letters, spaces, and punctuation marks.

The rhythm and texture of the film is driven by the voice of an omnipresent narrator, who describes the lifespan of a building from conception to abandonment - through a text that skips unsettlingly between past, present and future tense. The elements of the work conspire to generate multiple perspectives in time and space creating a state of flux between continual movement, and a sense of security engendered by the narrator's formal and reassuring tone.

Filmed in Birmingham's iconic Central Library, the city's most infamous example of Brutalist architecture, Inbindable Volume is an exploration of the journey between conception and materialization - both in architecture and books - and what becomes of ideologies after they have been realised in material form.

Launching VIVID's 2010/11 artists commissioning programme, the work has been developed during a three month residency at VIVID's project space in Eastside with the support of The Henry Moore Foundation, Birmingham City of Culture, and the Jan van Eyck Academie, an institute for research and production in the fields of fine art, design and theory in the Netherlands.

The exhibition opens at VIVID on 29 July and continues to 21 August 2010. The exhibition tours to Citric Gallery, Italy in March 2011.

karin kihlberg & reuben henry artists' statement
"Our work is embedded in society's contemporary habit of viewing the world through second-hand information; both in terms of current events, culture and history. How do these documents take form in our minds and what form would they take as an object, text or in a performance? How do documents become part of our own memories and how do they shape our perception of the world we live in?
Documentation, representation, and the narratives that bind history together are utilised by contemporary culture as routes to comprehend and consume the contemporary paradigm. In our work we take these same routes as phenomena to be explored, appropriated, transformed and confused in combination with established structures of drama and fictionalization.
We aim to capture uncertainties of the present and generate an unstable perception of time. We use subjective understandings and non-linear narrative as a method to see an event from alternative angles and perspectives. We are not bound to any particular medium, but are drawn instead to finding ways in which documentation can operate beyond representing the past."

Publication: ‘People, Places, Process: The Shops Project’

My essay 'Social Assemblage' on the work of FrenchMottershead has been published in the book ‘People, Places, Process: The Shops Project’ which will be officially launched on Monday 21 June 2010 in London.

‘People, Places, Process: The Shops Project’

A presentation and book launch by FrenchMottershead

Hosted by British author, historian and curator, Dr Mike Phillips OBE.

British artists FrenchMottershead (Rebecca French and Andrew Mottershead) create art that explores ideas of identity, social ritual and the everyday public and private realms in which they are played out. One of their recent projects is ‘Shops’, an international project uncovering communities formed around independent, local traders. FrenchMottershead’s exploration of the connections between local traders and residents took them, among other places, to the city of Iasi, in north-eastern Romania. Here they engaged with shop-owners, staff and customers, documenting the encounters and also the stories of the people they have met. The Romanian part of ‘The Shops Project’ was supported by the Ratiu Foundation.

In collaboration with Site Gallery Sheffield, the major hub of contemporary art in Yorkshire, this Culture Power event will see FrenchMottershead present their project, with an emphasis on Iasi. With this occasion, the artists will also present the book resulting from their encounters, part of the ‘Shops’ project, around the world.

Book Launch: ‘People, Places, Process: The Shops Project’
by Rebecca French and Andrew Mottershead. Site Gallery, 2010. ISBN: 978-1-899926-08-4
The book can be purchased on the evening at the special price of £9.95 (RRP £12.00).

‘People, Places, Process: The Shops Project’ was published to accompany FrenchMottershead’s ‘The Shops Project’ exhibition at Site Gallery, Sheffield, which took place from November 2009 to February 2010.

The residencies and work periods that resulted in work represented in the exhibition and this book took place in Bahia, Brazil (January 2008); Sao Paulo, Brazil (February - March 2008); Guangzhou, China (April - May 2008); Iasi, Romania (November - December 2008); Ljubljana, Slovenia (March - April 2009); Istanbul, Turkey (June - July 2009); and Sheffield, England (August - November 2009).

This publication compiles four years of research, documentation and artworks that have resulted from FrenchMottershead’s international Shops project, which looks at society through the lens of local shops.
Texts by the artists and local writers from the cities they've visited sit alongside contributions from Peter Jackson, Professor of Human Geography at The University of Sheffield, writer and lecturer Emma Cocker, and artist and writer Tim Etchells. Together they show, describe and analyse unique customers' and shop owners' stories in a range of different shopping landscapes, emphasising their differences but also revealing their connections and common grounds.

Private View of ‘The Shops Project’ in London
A part of ‘The Shops Project’ will be on display at the Ratiu Foundation / Romanian Cultural Centre, from 21 to 30 June 2010. 

Writing/Text: Experiments along the brink of I

"The challenge then, is to figure out a way beyond and through the impossibility of community. This is not to invoke a transcendent plateau from which one will find a new synthetic resolution free of contradictions. Quite the contrary, it is meant to suggest the impossibility of total consolidation, wholeness and unity [...] and perhaps more importantly, to suggest that such an impossibility is a welcome premise upon which a collective artistic praxis, as opposed to a 'community based art' might be theorised', Miwon Kwon, p.154.

"Research should no longer be done off to one side, in a school, a library, a laboratory. Where one lives needs to become a laboratory for researching, for mapping directly, the living body itself, oneself as world-forming inhabitant ... there needs to be a communal devising, selecting and combining of techniques that will strengthen organisms-persons and help them to regenerate themselves; results need to be pooled and compared" Architectural Body, Madeline Gins + Arakawa, pxx

Whilst at the PSi Performing Publics conference in Toronto I was invited to observe the following workshop, with the view to producing a new piece of writing in response for a forthcoming publication. The workshop was led by artists Sara Wookey and Bianca Sclair Mancini and explored the city through various forms of choreographic intervention. Wookey and Sclair Mancini's collaborative practice resonates with many of the concerns that have been developing within my wider practice, especially in relation to my own collaboration with the investigative art project, Open City.

I am tentatively developing a text in response to this work entitled, Experiments Along the Brink of I, where I envisage exploring a number of tactics wherein the distinction between self and other (and indeed world) becomes blurred or folded -  the practices of gleaning gestures, witnessing/attendance, following, flocking, copying, creating synchronicity in rhythm, becoming architectural.

Documentation of 'Movement and the City' workshop