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.

Exhibition/Project: Your Future Needs You

I will be including a new version from the ongoing series Field Proposals in the forthcoming exhibition, Your Future Needs You, at Art Gene in Barrow-in-Furness. This work will also be developed through a new performative mapping staged as a live or unfolding event within the space of the gallery, which responds to the specific geographical and conceptual terrain encountered during a series of visits to the area. This mapping will also operate as a working model or drawing board for a piece of new writing which responds more specifically to the Urban Retreat project that artist Sophie Mellor is undertaking in Barrow-in-Furness through September. More to follow as this project develops...

Field Proposal (Your Future Needs You), 2010

Essay/Text: Without Rhyme or Reason

Below is a critical response to Vlatka Horvat’s work This Here and That There, which has been commissioned for a critical journal based in Croatia called zarez (www.zarez.hr). The text follows a recent performance of the work by Horvat in the Los Angeles River, presented by Outpost for Contemporary Art. In This Here and That There, Horvat continuously rearranges 50 chairs over a period of eight hours. Each successive chair arrangement implies a set of possible relations between their imagined occupants, evoking a range of possibilities related to human interaction - dialogue, encounter, communication, and conflict. The text is used as a space to extend ideas initially developed in relation to this work within an previous essay Over and Over, Again and Again, where notions of restlessness and Sisyphian labour are explored through the prism of Horvat’s practice.

Without Rhyme or Reason


I will be showing a new version of the ongoing series 'Field Proposals' as part of THE DEPARTMENT OF MICRO- POETICS.

THE DEPARTMENT OF MICRO- POETICS will be in long-distance residence at the AC Institute, New York as part of Exchange Value (Sep 9-Oct 16 2010). Co-ordinated from London by VerySmallKitchen, the Department offers ongoing research into the histories and contemporary manifestations of  micro-poetic practices, conceived of both as a form of writing and a quality and practice of invitation, economy and relation.

For EXCHANGE VALUE the Department compiled an exhibition in the form of a box of ideas, scores, drawings, maps, lists, books and wall texts, sent from London to be installed by curators at the AC Institute space in New York. 

The Department currently includes projects by Rachel Lois Clapham, Emma Cocker, Matt Dalby, James Davies/ If P Then Q, The Festival of Nearly Invisible Publishing, Marianne Holm Hansen, Márton Koppány, Marit Muenzberg/ LemonMelon, Tamarin Norwood, Mary Paterson, Seekers of Lice and Mary Yacoob.  The DEPARTMENT is a working space and new works and texts will be added throughout the month, along with updates on the departments research.

The Department has also extended an invitation to New York based poets, editors, and artists to consider how they might make use of the Department as a work, exhibition and/or performance space. Residents are invited to make some physical intervention in the space for gallery visitors, and to have a correspondence (in any form) with the Department in London. New York Artists in residence include Jill Magi and Kai Fierle-Heidrick. More information about their projects - including events, publications, installations and performances - will be available soon.

On gallery opening days, THE BULLETIN OF THE DEPARTMENT OF MICRO-POETICS will be published in London, emailed to the AC Institute and distributed in the space. Copies of the template are available online and in the space for visitors to contribute their own issues of the bulletin, exploring an open model of publication and research, and how diverse forms of exchange and distribution can be represented in the gallery space.

THE DEPARTMENT OF MICRO-POETICS participates in the possibilities and crisis of poetries non-monetary economy of gift exchange.  It is  curated/ Assembled by David Berridge/ VerySmallKitchen.
Based in London, VerySmallKitchen explores connections of writing, poetics, and art practice through a range of exhibitions, performances, conversations, and publications. Projects include WRITING/EXHIBITION/PUBLICATION - a month long residency at the The Pigeon Wing in London (Sep 3-Oct 3 2010); THE FESTIVAL OF NEARLY INVISIBLE PUBLISHING (co-organised with LemonMelon, ongoing) and ASSEMBLING for The Reading Room, Berlin.  The project is curated by the writer David Berridge. See http://verysmallkitchen.com  or email verysmallkitchen@gmail.com for further information.

Book chapter: Liminal Landscapes

I have been invited to develop a book chapter for the forthcoming publication, Liminal Landscapes. The chapter will develop ideas explored in my recent conference paper at the Liminal Landscapes conference at the Liverpool John Moores University. See abstract below.

Exit Strategies – Looking for Loopholes
Referring to the work of artists Kayle Brandon and Heath Bunting, this chapter explores how the liminal landscape operates as a critical site or location for questioning the controlling, striated cartographies that habitually map contemporary subjectivity and social identity. For Brandon and Bunting, the inhabitation and interrogation of various indeterminate geographies or border terrains is considered synchronous to the conception of other, less acquiescent, ways of living and performing a life. Within projects such as BorderXing and Status Project, the artists attempt to exploit the indeterminacy of those interstitial spaces particular to the twenty-first century: the liminal landscapes emerging as the border logic of the sovereign state struggles with the borderless ideology of globalization, or else the uncertain and unstable territories located along the threshold between physical and virtual realms. Brandon and Bunting are less concerned with giving shape to these interstitial landscapes as affecting a change of perception in how they might be narrated and navigated differently to expectation. For these artists, the liminal landscape (whether spatial, social, physical or virtual) presents as a space of opportunity within which to extend or even produce further indeterminacy, wherein the rules and restrictions that habitually govern social space (and the lives lived therein) are rendered porous or deemed void. Within their practice, the specific properties of liminality or of a liminal position are tactically adopted in order to construct and inhabit the landscape (or indeed a life) differently to the expectations and permissions perpetuated by the normative structure, for the purposes of producing momentary escape routes and loopholes. Referring to specific projects by Brandon and Bunting, this chapter explores the idea of the loophole as a particular manifestation of and in liminal space; in turn, how the loophole might operate as the inaugural site of a specific species of liminal – unbound or deterritorialized – subjectivity. 

A draft version of the chapter can be read below.

Text Work: Field Proposals (part 1 and part 2)

Below are a set of new 'Field proposals' which I am currently developing for a number of different exhibition contexts including Writing/Exhibition/Publication at The Pigeon Wing, London; The Department of Micropoetics curated by David Berridge and Your Future Needs You at Art Gene, Barrow-in-Furness.  

Image: Field Proposal (2) for The Pigeon Wing

Field Proposal (2) is proposition for a portable studio, the diagramming of a thinking space. The work exists as a pairing of two proposals. Part 1 uses titles from existing work in an attempt to plot the coordinates of or establish the cartography of a practice, where intersecting lines suggest the potential of as yet unnamed possibilities which for now remain indiscernible. Part 2 is largely blank, in further anticipation of this still to be navigated territory.

Exhibition: Afterlive

I will be presenting a re-working of Re- (a collaborative reading and its documentation) in collaboration with Rachel Lois Clapham as part of the forthcoming exhibition, Afterlive , at Norwich Arts Centre:

Saturday 4th September – Saturday 30th October
Blast Theory, Rachel Lois Clapham & Emma Cocker, Holly Darton, Richard Dedomenici, FrenchMottershead, Dot Howard, Richard Layzell, Open Dialogues, Performance Re-enactment Society, and Townley & Bradby.

Live art, by its very nature, is ephemeral. After it has happened it takes on another life: in audience anecdotes, reviews, films, and photographs. However, a number of artists are actively engaged in this process: they make decisions about the afterlife of their work, and mould the shape of the anecdotes with self-published books, and carefully edited films. Documentation is fallible: it can never fully represent a live work. The artists in this exhibition embrace this separation between primary and secondary forms, this room for manoeuvre; this documentation work doesn’t necessarily favour authenticity and evidence over memory and imagination in the creation of a legacy for a live piece. Alongside the exhibition there will be a launch event  , including a panel discussion and an evening programme of live art.

Curated by Holly Rumble, an Escalator Performing Arts artist, and co-founder of other/other/other.

Saturday 4th September: Free 1-4pm/£10 4-11pm (16+)
A programme of live art to launch the AFTERLIVE exhibition.
1-4pm OTHER/OTHER/OTHER: Now That’s What We Call Live Art…
Site-specific live work by members of the Norwich-based collective (Free entry)
A discussion about the role of documentation in live art, with: Rachel Lois Clapham, Tom Marshman, and Clare Thornton, chaired by Lois Keidan (Live Art Development Agency).
‘Re-’ Rachel Lois Clapham & Emma CockerRachel Lois Clapham and Emma Cocker essay the relationship between performance/document, live/recording, writing/written. This collaborative reading presses on two writers – and two writing practices- coming together to explore process, product and performance (of text).
‘A Long Walk’ Esther PilkingtonA performance about the artist’s re-enactment of Richard Long’s ‘Crossing Stones’ (1987): a walk from Aberystwyth to Aldeburgh, using Long’s documentation as an instruction.
‘Approximating the Art of Stuart Sherman’ Robin DeaconThis performance is centred around a series of re-enacted performances based on the works of the late American artist Stuart Sherman (1945 – 2001), a seminal though underexposed figure in the history of performance art. Described as “the Buster Keaton of linguistics”, his performances involved complex manipulations of objects that explored time, place, language and meaning. This piece will explore the conundrum of Sherman’s methodology through Robin Deacon’s transcription and physical re-enactment of the artist’s performances based on the original documentation.
‘Sex Idiot’ Bryony Kimmings (pictured above)Bryony Kimmings is a Sex Idiot. In 2009 Bryony found out she had a common sexual disease, and was faced with the arduous task of re-tracing her sexual footsteps to see where she may have contracted her little problem.

Publication: Open City

Below is a pamphlet bringing together texts/images produced in collaboration with Open City (Andrew Brown and Katie Doubleday). If you would like a copy of the pamphlet please email me: emma.cocker@ntu.ac.uk

Text Work: Re-writing a re-reading (catalogue text)

Below are a couple of images from the NTU Fine Art degree show catalogue (2010) to which I was asked to contribute an essay. In lieu of an essay I submitted selected excerpts from Re – a collaborative performance reading by myself with Rachel Lois Clapham. Re – focuses on the tension between the improvised and rehearsed, and on the play between the visible and invisible, or public and private states of not knowing within the performed act of writing. Extracted from their original context, the fragments of writing perhaps also have the capacity to say ‘something’ in relation to the experience of an art practice, and in turn, the experience of being at art school.  

Text: From Ritual to Theatre

From Ritual to Theatre is a film screening programme at ANCIENT & MODERN curated by artist Ben Judd. The curatorial statement for this programme is a partly co-authored text (Cocker/Judd) extending ideas emerging from a series of discussions and pieces of writing produced from a dialogue between myself and Ben, where the notion of ritual and the figure of the initiate became used as starting points to explore our shared concerns.

From Ritual to Theatre
During the month of August, ANCIENT & MODERN presents From Ritual to Theatre curated by Ben Judd, a series of artists’ films that explore the grey area between performance and ritual.

The artists in From Ritual to Theatre reuse the signs, codes and mannerisms of rituals, rites and ceremonies. Through their restaging, these events, both everyday and profound, are used as readymades, re-exploring their value and cultural status. The work in From Ritual to Theatre explores the paradox of the parameters and freedom that self-imposed ritual provides. In relation to the cultural and historical baggage that these ritualistic acts suggest, the artists explore the role of the initiate, a position which has a strangely exempted status. For anthropologist Victor Turner, the initiate occupies an ambiguous territory where they remain “neither here nor there … betwixt and between the positions assigned by law, custom, convention”. During the liminal or transitional phase of any ritual activity the characteristics and laws of the dominant social structure are momentarily collapsed, as “the ritual subjects pass through a period and area of ambiguity”  where “they are at once no longer classified and not yet classified”. The artists locate themselves at the fulcrum where one position begins to slip into another, the shimmering point where fixed positions begin to waver. Text by Emma Cocker and Ben Judd

Artists included in this programme:
Christine Sullivan and Rob Flint, Generator, 2006, 4:00 min, colour, sound
George Gurdjieff, Hidden Symmetry 2, date unknown, 4:31 min, black & white, sound
Jim Shaw, Initiation Ritual of the 360 Degrees, 2002, 10:54 min, colour, sound
Matt Stokes, Long After Tonight, 2005, 6:40 min, colour, sound
Marcus Coates, Out of Season, 2000, 7:16 min, colour, sound
Alex Sanders, Fire Spirit Ritual, c.1970, 3:27 min, colour, sound
Bruce Nauman, Walking in an Exaggerated Manner Around the Perimeter of a Square,1967-68, 5:00 min extract, black & white, silent
Magali Reus, Background, 2009, 7:25 min, colour, sound
Catherine Sullivan, Triangle of Need (Olympian and Doves), 2007, 7:00 min, colour, sound
Michael Curran, All My Little Ducks, 1995, 7:00 min, black & white, sound
Kenneth Anger, Invocation of My Demon Brother, 1969, 10:30 min, colour, sound
Maya Deren, Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti, 1947-55, 8:00 min extract, black & white, sound
Sian Davies, Thebes, 2007, 7:52 min, colour, sound
Guy Sherwin, Man With Mirror, 1976/2006, 9:00 min, colour, sound
Breda Beban, Walk of Three Chairs, 2003, 10:00 min, colour, sound
Jim Shaw, The Whole: A Study in Oist Movement, 2009, 16:40 min, colour, sound

For more information and individual screening times please see www.ancientandmodern.org

Event: The Bookmobile Project

I have been invited to 'chair' a lecture/seminar/reading room event as part of The Bookmobile Project, which is a peripatetic project hosted by the publishing and curatorial initiative YH485 as part of Sideshow 2010. More information to follow soon, but in the meantime below is a brief outline for the project.

Journal Article: Moves towards the Incomprehensible Wild

My article ‘Moves towards the Incomprehensible Wild’ is going to be published in a forthcoming issue of the online journal Art & Research,  focusing on the theme, Art & Animality.

 Image: Dutton + Swindells

The article explores how for artists, Dutton + Swindells, the notion of ‘encounter’ or ‘event’ emerges as a particular manifestation of wildness. Their practice investigates whether it is possible to every truly encounter (or indeed produce) something wild, something that has not been already captured, classified, tamed. Bringing Dutton + Swindells’ practice into the proximity of Alain Badiou’s conceptualization of the event, my intent is to explore how within their work the event (of an encounter with the wild) promises towards the possibility of the new whilst asking whether such an event could be provoked or produced through a form of critical (artistic) practice.
The article will be published in Art & Animality, Volume 4 No 1 Autumn/Winter 2010
Co-edited by Ron Broglio

Contributors include:
Helen Bullard
Marcus Coates
Emma Cocker
Mark Dion
Susan McHugh and Steve Baker
Carolee Schneeman
Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir & Mark Wilson
Jan Verwoert
Frederick Young

Art & Research is an artist-led, internationally peer-assessed open access e-journal of Research in Fine Art Practice, focused upon questions, contexts and methodologies of artistic research and practice. Art & Research aims to serve professional artists and academics, curators and critics, artistic researchers, postgraduate and doctoral research students and undergraduates, and to inform current pedagogical thought in a global context. Art & Research welcomes submissions from artists, researchers, academics, critics and curators which seek to engage with all areas of research in Fine Art practice and/or pedagogy. Submissions may take the form of interviews, analytical or polemical essays as well as audio, visual or text-based artworks which seek to address issues in / or are the outcomes of research in Fine Art practice.