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.

Events: Manual Reading

During June, I will be presenting ideas at a number of forthcoming events where I propose to elaborate upon the invitational or instructional aspects of the ‘manual’, with reference to various examples of ‘manual’ including the recently published Manual for Marginal Places. Events include:

Traverse is the inaugural exhibition at new Bristol gallery, Geneva Stop. Traverse features new video work by Close & Remote and the book launch of ‘Manual For Marginal Places’, which includes text by Emma Cocker and images by Sophie Mellor and Simon Poulter.

X Libris
Site Gallery play host to a series of book-based discussions around the themes: 'Public', 'Machines', 'Manuals' and 'Maps'. I will be involved in the session on 'Manuals' which will take place on 14 June. As part of this session I explore how aspects of Baden-Powell's boy scout manual 'Scouting for Boys' can be considered as a kind of proto-conceptual script; its suggestions and propositions akin to the instructive imperative of Perec's Species of Spaces and Other Pieces or even certain Fluxus scores.

Image: Artist Bob Levene during the X-Libris event with a copy of Baden-Powell's Scouting for Boys.

Background to X Libris Book Club 3 - Manuals
From Douglas Adams' 'Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy' to George Perec's 'Life: A User's Manual', we will explore the guide books, user's guides and manuals generously donated to X Libris. Artist Bob Levene will discuss her contribution, 'A User's Guide to the 21st Century' and Emma Cocker will introduce her book 'Manual for Marginal Places' created in collaboration with Close and Remote:

“To be useful, a manual often needs to give the user an overview of how a thing works and then more detailed information on its application and maintenance. In this case the manual format is extracted from the mechanical and re-directed towards the desire or yearning for authentic experience. Unlike the well-known Haynes automotive manuals, this book does not offer a complete strip down and rebuild of a location; it makes suggestions in the direction of raw experience. Away from how things work and toward how you might work.” (closeandremote.net)

Presentation: Close Reading / Open Reading

I am in the process of testing out some new work, in preparation for my presentation Close Reading / Open Reading, which is part of the Writing (the) Space Event, Thursday 19 May at Wild Pansy Press Project Space. Close Reading / Open Reading investigates the capacity of methods of close attention for producing uncertainty, indeterminacy and formlessness rather than fixing or clarifying any single, stable meaning, where paradoxically perhaps, the more something becomes scrutinized the less it becomes known. Within my practice, processes of extraction, fragmentation, listing, footnoting and cross-referencing become used for generating 'openings' rather than conclusions, for appearing purposeful whilst remaining without clear or discernible intent. 

My presentation will move from considering my recent collaboration with Rachel Lois Clapham (Re -) towards introducing aspects of my more emergent research collaboration with artist Jim Boxall entitled, Close Readings. As part of this new research project we propose to explore the notion of close reading or of an ‘explication de texte’ as a tactic through which to interrogate the performative and spatial dimensions of written text. Here, close reading is not understood as the critical attention paid to the meaning of words themselves as signs, but is instead interested in those meanings produced by looking at the spatiality of words ‘close up’, through a process of visual magnification or close visual attention. Close Reading / Open Reading explores the threshold space where writing or text collapses into its component parts (ink and page), or the point where the sense or legibility of a word is rendered illegible or nonsensical the closer it is attended to, as writing slips towards image. I envisage future experiments emerging from this presentations exploring the relationship between the practices of flitting and lingering (over a text). 

Event: RaRa & Manual for Marginal Places Launch

On Saturday 14 May, S1 Studios hosted the RaRa symposium,  Just Do(ing) It: Artist-led and self-organised cultural activity as resistance to Capitalism and the book launch for closeandremote's Manual for Marginal Places. Images from these events to follow here and also on S1 Studios forthcoming facebook pages.

Image: RaRa symposium, an S1 studios hosted event at S1 Artspace, 14 May 2011

Details about the event

Just Do(ing) It: Artist-led and self-organised cultural activity as resistance to Capitalism.

Building on previous RadicalAesthetics-RadicalArt (RaRa) events that have focused on the theoretical and socio-political landscape of a ‘radical (art) praxis’, this event in an artists-led space in Sheffield continues the exploration of strategies, tactics and work being carried out ‘on the ground’ by artists and cultural activists towards a better world. How might we begin to understand artist-led or self-organised art activity in this light?  What examples of DIY, informal or purposefully marginal art practices exist which aim to imagine, create, or operate within new spheres for cultural activity? How do such practices resist and/or maintain a critical relationship with the dominant order and state capitalism? How does the empty but increasingly inescapable rhetoric of Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ effect or alter the stakes of such practice? What role do practices of subversion operating ‘within and against’ the system play in this struggle?

Image: R ebecca Gordon-Nesbitt's presentation

Speakers include:
-  John Holloway (Professor of Sociology, Insituto de Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades, Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, Mexico, and Leverhulme Visiting Professor, School of Geography, University of Leeds. Author of Change the World without taking Power (new ed. Pluto, London, 2010) and Crack Capitalism (Pluto, London, 2010).
-  Leeds Creative Timebank (Alternative economy initiative http: //www.leedscreativetimebank.co.uk/)
-  Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt (Sheffield-born writer and investigative researcher).
-  Milena Placentile (Winnipeg based curator, writer, researcher)
- with special video contribution from Gregory Sholette (US-based artist/writer on informal art practice, author of Dark Matter, Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture, 2011)

This one-day event – initiated by Andy Abbott (Black Dogs and University of Leeds), in collaboration with Jane Tormey/Gillian Whiteley (Loughborough University) and S1 (www.S1artspace.org) - aims to provide a space for discussion, critical reflection and evaluation of such questions and tactics through the example of current practice and writers on the subject.

RaRa is a Politicized Practice Research Group project. 


19 May 10.45 - 8pm
Old Mining Building, University of Leeds, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds LS2 9JT

Contributors include David Berridge, Rachel Lois Clapham, Emma Cocker, Victoria Gray, Claire Hind, Mary Paterson

Charles Olson’s Projective Verse invites writing to be considered spatially, as OPEN, or as FIELD (of) composition in three dimensions. His proposition is one of text as space of action, of breath as punctuation, and of the bodily pressures of writing in which ‘form is never more than an extension of content’. Drawing together the practices of UK artists and writers, this day-long event attempts to further explore notions of physical and spatial writing, drawing on the installation Re – (WRITING (the) SPACE) and Olson’s notion of Projective Verse.

10.45 – 6pm: OPEN OLSON OPEN Laboratory

A laboratory exploring practice-based examples of Olson’s Projective Verse. Presenting is David Berridge talking on PHRASE POETICS and Olson’s “field”, Rachel Lois Clapham on FINGER and three dimensional ‘diagramming’, Emma Cocker explores the 'spacing' of extraction, condensation and close reading, Victoria Gray unpicks her performance of Loop (2011), Claire Hind examines voice and breath in response to Olson’s insistence upon the author’s body and Mary Paterson uses her online text 'Navigation Through Unbound' as a case study for writing the unknown. Audience space is limited so booking essential, please email rachellois@opendialogues.com.

6-8pm : How is Art Writing?

Dinner, drink and a live performance by Giles Bailey as part of the In a word…artists’ dinner series. Free but booking essential via rachellois@opendialogues.com or by clicking here.

This event has been developed in conjunction with the exhibition WRITING (the) SPACE, a presentation of the project Re – by Rachel Lois Clapham and Emma Cocker at the Wild Pansy Project Space