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.

Seminar: Performing Space (Differently)

I have been invited to deliver a seminar in the School of Architecture, University of Sheffield as part of their PhD research and design programme. Drawing on some of my recent projects and collaborations, I envisage this seminar will explore 2 clusters of activity within my current research which explore various 'tactics' for performing space differently (to expectation, convention or habit):

Image: Emma Cocker, Spatial (inter) relations proposition, Vienna, 2011

Performing Communities: interrogates how participatory performance-based interventions in the public realm can help cultivate models of social agency, sociability or temporary collectivity, in resistance to the increased experience of atomization/individualization within contemporary urban life. It investigates the capacity of participatory performance to intervene in and challenge how the public realm is activated and navigated by producing ‘counter-publics’, new social formations for rehearsing and testing alternative – ethical, political, critical – forms of individual and collective subjectivity. Central to this area of enquiry are my own practice-based collaborations with other artists: including the project Open City; a dialogue between myself, Sara Wookey and Bianca Scliar Mancini following the projects (Un)folding Zagreb (2009) and Movement in the City (Toronto, 2010); and a recent project entitled Spatial (Inter) Relations in collaboration with Nikolaus Gansterer and students at the Institute for Transmedia Art, Vienna where sight-lines (or the practice of ‘throwing a glance’) were interrogated as forms of performative drawing for demarcating (even constituting) temporary forms of collectivity.

Cartographies of Escape: focuses on the relationship between how landscape is lived or performed to the emergence of a critical – resistant – form of subjectivity. It investigates how artistic practice can offer a platform for practicing or rehearsing alternative ‘ways of operating’ to the increasingly limited, prescriptive templates of citizenship perpetuated by and within contemporary neoliberalism. Central to this research cluster are the two prose poems The Yes of the No! (produced as part of the project Summer of Dissent) and Making Room for Manoeuvre; or, Ways of Operating Along the Margins, in Manual for Marginal Places. 

Publication: occursus - Dis/con/sensus

I am contributing a text to the forthcoming occursus publication –  a collection of responses by artists, writers and researchers to certain themes which emerged in the course of the last series of occursus’ Reading Loop. The book will be divided into themes; these are: ‘Spandrels’, ‘Re-visiting’, ‘Dis/con/sensus’, ‘Copying’, ‘Foam’ and ‘Animality’. My text will be included in the section 'Dis/con/sensus’ edited by Amanda Crawley-Jackson.

Amanda's introduction to the section reads as follows:

“Politics is litigious. It is a deviation from the normal order of things. It is a denaturalising gesture, a rupture and an interruption. (See Jacques Rancière, Dissensus).
Politics is dissensus. Consensus is the loss of thought. It is politics understood as the affair of government. The futility of noisy protests that everyone agrees with…? (That leads to more consensus.) Art as a means of disclosing the ‘necessary’ and ‘inevitable’ as contingent? (See Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism, p. 16). The denaturalising function of art. What constitutes consensus and dissent today? In what forms are they practised? What kinds of sociality do they entail? Doing is a torrent against all enclosure. Our power to do things differently, our power to create a different world, is a flow that exerts a growing force against the walls that hem us in, a constant breaching of these walls. Capital runs around mending these breaches (granting land reforms, redefining the norms of sexuality, for example), but the flow of our power will not be contained, simply because our collective life depends on it. (John Holloway, Crack Capitalism, p. 261). What are the links between art and politics? Is art (and can it be) political? Does it do? What is the place of the university? Is the university a consenting or dissenting institution?

dissent (vb): early 15c., from L. dissentire ”differ in sentiments, disagree, be at odds, contradict, quarrel,” from dis- ”differently” (see dis-) + sentire ”to feel, think” (seesense). Related: Dissented; dissenting.
dissension (n): early 14c., from O.Fr. dissension (12c.) and directly from L. dissensionem (nom. dissensio) “disagreement, difference of opinion, discord, strife,” noun of action from pp. stem of dissentire ”disagree”
consensus (n): 1854 as a term in physiology; 1861 of persons; from L. consensus ”agreement, accord,” pp. of consentire (see consent). There is an isolated instance of the word from 1633.” 

Event: Spike Associates

Artist Katie Davies in her studio. Photograph: Stuart Whipps.

I have been invited by Spike Associates to lead a critical discussion around an exhibition of new work by artist Katie Davies, at Motorcade/Flashparade, an independently run gallery in Bristol. I have worked with Katie previously, as part of her residency at the town hall in Sheffield, which resulted in my production of the text, The Shimmering of the Tipping Point. Central to this text, and to Katie’s work more broadly, are ideas around liminality, the notion of the artist as initiate, and a focus on specific communities inhabiting particular kinds of threshold state or space.

Background to Katie’s practice: ‘Exploring observational documentary narrative, Katie Davies works by establishing professional associations to institutions and individuals in order to critique the relationship between the individual and the system within which they operate. Davies is at times part and not part of the groups featured in her work. Her practice often seems to point to or reflect upon the idea of a threshold, examining the nature of the indistinguishable zones and in-between states, or on spaces that are in some way betwixt.’ See http://www.katiedavies.com/

Publication: Power

I have two texts in the forthcoming issue of DRAIN magazine on Power, Vol. 8, No. 1, 2011

Yoko Ono, Fly Piece, 1963.

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; an interruptive and potentially dissident species of affirmation that has a specifically inceptive function, for provoking a form of thinking and being differently. Permission Granted extends the ideas of a short pamphlet, ‘The Yes of the No!’, that I produced following a writing residency at the artist-led project Plan 9 in Bristol, during their Summer of Dissent, 2009. The original text of ‘The Yes of the No!’ is also being published in this issue of Drain.

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?


Feature Essay
The Clutter Assemblage – Ian Buchanan
Permission Granted – Emma Cocker
CLEAN – Looking at War – Chris Revelle
Interview with Andy Roche, ‘On Psychedelia’ – Alexander Stewart
Interview with Blazo Kovacevic – Bertha Husband
Creative Writing
Paper Army – Camille Meyer
Power/Collaboration – BT Shaw and Elizabeth Lopeman
Great North – Vanessa Norton
The Yes of the No! – Emma Cocker
Cross Cultural Exchanges in Imperial and Global India – Morgan Campbell
Feature Artist
Necropolis – Roi Kuper
Art Projects
GWOTEM – Jamie Badoud
Duration – Diana Heise
Criminals (Rio de Janeiro) – Cyrico Lopes
Clean Battlefield – Bob Paris
The Gift of Giving – Oscar Perez

Performance: Drawing on Drawing a Hypothesis (Part 1)

A performance lecture by Nikolaus Gansterer and Emma Cocker
M HKA, Antwerp, 22 September 2010

On the occasion of the launch of Drawing a Hypothesis: Figures of Research (Springer Verlag, 2011) Nikolaus Gansterer in collaboration with writer Emma Cocker present a performance lecture that draws on the publication. Using processes of cross-reading and live drawing, their performance lecture approaches the publication as a reader might thumb through a book; where certain sections appear to be lingered over, while others are skimmed in the search for key words and phrases, evocative fragments and extractions. Their reading suggests that books like Drawing a Hypothesis might not always need be read in a linear or logical way, but rather are to be dipped into, allowing for detours and distractions within the event of reading itself. The lecture takes the figures of thought at the heart of Drawing a Hypothesis as points of departure for exploring and performing the correlations between thinking and drawing. Addressing the shifting and ambivalent properties of image, symbol and drawing within the publication, it asks, ‘how can these visual artefacts be comprehended?’

More images can be found here. Forthcoming launches and performance lectures will be taking place in Amsterdam, Vienna and Berlin. A video document of the work is also in development.

Book Launch: The Event

Excerpt from my essay, [...]

As part of THE EVENT in Birmingham, Karin Kihlberg and Reuben Henry will be launching their new publication alongside the opening of the group exhibition “which of them went before, and which followed after, and which were together?”. The publication (developed in response to a series of evolving solo commissions by Kihlberg Henry, produced by VIVID in collaboration with Danielle Arnaud and Artsway) includes texts by Emma Cocker, Brian Dillon and Mladen Dolar. 

Writing: Still Square to the Round Hole

I will be visiting Spike Island in November with the view to writing something about the forthcoming exhibition, Tea Back, by Łódź based artist Cezary Bodzianowski. I hope that the encounter will enable me to revisit and develop some of the concerns developed within my recent texts, Over and Over, Again and Again, (where a specifically Sisyphean model of absurdity was explored); The Yes of the No! which explored affirmative forms of dissension and refusal (such as over-enthusiasm and play) and writing developed in collaboration with Open City within whose work everyday actions are often repeated, inverted, reversed in order to reveal the presence of habitual social expectations, conventions and protocol.

Cezary Bodzianowski: Tea Back
Saturday 22 October - Sunday 27 November

Spike Island presents the first UK solo show by Łódź based artist Cezary Bodzianowski. Initially trained as a sculptor in both his native Poland and at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, Bodzianowski has increasingly turned his practice to the creation of absurdist interventions into everyday settings. Such actions include camouflaging himself as foliage while standing beneath a tree or positioning himself, legs in the air, in the empty space below a staircase. In his 2010 essay 'O Lucky Man', art critic Jan Verwoert describes these studiedly deadpan performances as ‘characterised by a certain conspicuous inconspicuousness’, bringing to mind the era of silent comedy with their permanently out of place everyman hero. These actions result in photographs or short videos, mostly taken by his wife and artistic collaborator Monika Chojnicka. At the invitation of Spike Island, Bodzianowski and Chojnicka undertake a short residency during October 2011, responding to the sites and spaces of Bristol, including Spike Island’s own history as a former tea packing factory.

Cezary Bodzianowski, Step by Step (2010). Photo: Monika Chojnicka

Publication: COPY // unfold

My text-work Close Reading (G.D.T.F, 1993) has been selected for inclusion in the forthcoming edition of COPY, a publication of experimental/art writing curated by Critical Writing CollectiveCOPY explores the boundaries of critical and experimental art writing through the publishing of writing as or within art practice, and page based works with a critical / textual element. COPY // unfold suggests a tension between the resolved and unresolved, drafted and rewritten, finished and unfinished through works which explore, respond to or enact in their own form a state of being ‘in process’.  Contributors include Alain AyersDavid Berridge, Julia Calver, Paul CarrRachel Lois ClaphamEmma CockerLaura DavidsonJoanna LovedayFlatten the MountainDaniel FogartySarah Frydenlund, Derek Horton, Tamarin NorwoodFlora RobertsonTerry SlaterRichard TaylorJohn WinslowPaul Wright. COPY is designed in collaboration with Dust.

Emma Cocker, Close Reading (G.D. T.F. 1993), 2011

Through the practice of close reading, language can be made to stretch or pucker, ruche or fray. With experience, it can be pulled thin and sheer as delicate gauze or gathered up into thick and impenetrable creases. Close Reading (G.D. T.F. 1993) is part of an ongoing series that investigates the practice of close reading or of an ‘explication de texte’ as a critical tool for destabilizing language, for breaking up the linear unfolding of language into discontinuous fragments. Close Reading (G.D. T.F. 1993) performs a close reading of Gilles Deleuze, The Fold, 1993, in an attempt to render the text itself as an unfolding of pleats and stutters.

Publication: Art & Research

My essay ‘Moves Towards the Incomprehensible Wild’ has now been published and can be read online hereThe article belongs to a cluster of research entitled ‘The Enquiring of the Enquirer’ (within my broader research project, Not Yet There), which considers the specificity of thinking (‘knowing’) generated within certain forms of artistic practice, through the prism of philosopher Alain Badiou’s Being and Event. Central to Badiou’s thesis is an elaboration of the ‘event’ conceived as an encounter with that which cannot be comprehended by the terms of the existing ‘situation’; a moment of rupture wherein the ‘new’ might emerge. My article tests artists Dutton + Swindells’ practice against this theory (and vice versa), proposing their work as a manifestation of a ‘truth procedure’ performed in ‘fidelity’ (Badiou) to the transformative potential of the art encounter and possibility of the unexpected or ‘wildness’ therein. The article develops a new critical vocabulary for considering the process of artistic practice (and knowledge production therein), enhancing the burgeoning discourse around artistic research. It proposes a language for interrogating the criticality of the endeavour or enquiry of art practice, rather than resulting outcomes. A condensed version of the text was also published in ‘The Institute of Beasts’ (Site Gallery, 2011). A parallel investigation exploring drawing as an ‘evental site of practice’ (shifting from Badiou’s writing towards Antonio Negri’s conceptualization of ‘kairos’) is also developing within essays ‘The Restless Line’ in Hyperdrawing: Beyond the Lines of Contemporary Art (I.B.Tauris, 2012) and ‘Distancing the If and Then’, in Drawing a Hypothesis (Verlag Springer, 2011). 

A Journal of Ideas, Contexts and Methods
Volume 4. Number 1. Summer 2011
ISSN 1752-6388

This issue of Art and Research, focused upon ‘Art and Animality’, is co-edited by Ron Broglio (Arizona State University)

Contents include
Editorial: Art and the Animal Revolution
Giovanni Aloi, Different Becomings
Susan McHugh, Stains, Drains, and Automobiles: A Conversation with Steve Baker about Norfolk Roadkill, Mainly
Helen Bullard, Fostering Pidgins:(A conference report on Pidgin Language:(Animals, Birds and Us)
Emma Cocker, Moves Towards the Incomprehensible Wild
Roz Cran, Am I leopard?: Seeking Animation and Other Possibilities
Alan Currall, Cat Stuck in Organ
Maria Fusco, Fieldnotes from the Urban Pastoral
Ron Broglio and Frederick Young, The Coming Non-Human Community: A Conversation
Ingvild Kaldal and Nigel Rothfels, Reflections on the Vitrine 
Carolee Schneemann, Approaching Animality
Kate Foster in conversation with Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir and Mark Wilson
Jan Verwoert, Animalisms