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.

Research: Be Prepared

"Precepts are not given for the sake of being practised, but practice is prescribed in order that precepts may be understood. They are scales. One does not play Bach without having done scales. But neither does one play a scale merely for the sake of the scale", Simone Weil, 'Training' in Gravity and Grace, pp.123 - 124.

I am currently working on a number of conference papers that take as their point of departure the boy scout motto, be prepared; interrogating what it might mean to be prepared or to prepare oneself as a critical - rather than obedient and acquiescent - citizen or subject. For example, my paper, Be Prepared - Practices for Performing the Self Differently has been selected as part of the forthcoming PSi 18 conference on Performance, Culture, Industry, taking place at the University of Leeds from 27 June – 1 July. I will be presenting as part of a strand exploring training, labour and innovation.

Be Prepared - Practices for Performing the Self Differently

Short abstract: This paper considers the relation of training, labour and innovation against Michel Foucault’s imperative to ‘make life into a work of art’. It explores how various art and literary examples might present as a set of guidelines or principles for producing the self differently, as possible ‘techniques of the self’.

Full Abstract: Various philosophers have advocated the necessity of viewing life as a kind of project or mode of invention, suggesting that one’s ‘style of life’ or ‘ways of existing’ might be produced differently to habitual expectation. Positioned as a speculative proposition (drawing on my practice-based involvement in various art projects), this paper considers the relation of training, labour and innovation against Michel Foucault’s philosophical imperative towards the ‘making of life into a work of art’. In the Hermeneutics of the Subject and The Care of the Self Foucault turns to Ancient Greece to excavate and elaborate a programme of practices related to the precept ‘care of the self’ (epimelesthai sautou). For Foucault, the ‘techniques of the self’ or ‘arts of existence’ take the form of ‘those reflective and voluntary practices by which men not only set themselves rules of conduct, but seek to transform themselves, to change themselves’.1 In Ancient Greek culture, such techniques formed a training manual or programme (for mind and body) through which a more critical, ethical formulation of subjectivity and citizenship could be prepared, practiced, performed. In the absence of the necessary cultural, ethical, even civic framework for resurrecting the specificity of this Ancient training, this paper (perhaps playfully) turns to various art, performance and literary examples, exploring how they might present as a set of guidelines or principles for producing the self differently, as possible techniques of the self. The paper purposefully travels an errant line, drawing the direct encounters of my own practice-based enquiry and collaborations into dialogue with diverse references (the art of techné, Montaigne’s Essays; Fluxus scores; Georges Perec’s guides; Baden-Powell’s Scouting for Boys). I explore how the act of transforming oneself as a critical subject requires the cultivation of self-initiated tests, trials and ‘tactics’ that encourage transition away from repressive social norms; where to produce or construct oneself differently involves performing one’s life in the subjunctive key of as if, the practicing or rehearsal of a life as otherwise.

1. Michel Foucault, The Use of Pleasure. The History of Sexuality: Volume Two. Tr. R. Hurley. (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1992/1984), pp. 10 11.

Project/Collaboration: Tacturiency

Tacturiency - the desire of touching, to touch, to be touched [fr. L. tangere, to touch]. An unfurling collaboration with Clare Thornton for exploring touch, folding, fainting, falling, failing … more to follow.

Performance: Drawing on Drawing a Hypothesis (III)

On 23 November 2011, Nikolaus Gansterer and Emma Cocker presented the third iteration of their performance lecture Drawing on Drawing a Hypothesis at the Kunsthalle Project Space in Vienna. Previous iterations of the lecture took place at (Part I) M HKA, Antwerp and (Part II) KNAW. A further iteration of the work will take place in Berlin (February 2012). Below are some images from the launch event and from the performance-lecture (Chapters I - VI).

Publication Launch: COPY/Unfold

COPY/UNFOLD (a Critical Writing Collective publicationwill be launched at S1 Studios Sheffield on 3 December 2011, with an introduction to the publication from Charlotte Morgan, Joanna Loveday and the designers Dust Collective, alongside contributors to the publication including myself, Daniel Fogarty, Joanna Loveday, JDA Winslow & Paul Wright.

As part of this event, I presented some ideas about close reading, performed against the context of my short video (C.O, P.V, 1950) from the Close Reading project.

"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. Under scrutiny, text can be pressured into its component parts (of ink and page), the sense or legibility of a word rendered nonsensical the closer it is attended to, as writing slips towards image, as meaning dissipates into pleats and folds. Close Reading investigates the practice of close reading or of explication de texte as a critical tool for destabilizing the linear unfolding of a text into discontinuous fragments. This series investigates how paying close attention to language does not always fix or clarify a single, stable meaning, but perhaps counter-intuitively produces further uncertainty, indeterminacy and formlessness. Here, the more something becomes scrutinized the less it becomes known. Like conventional forms of close reading, this work focuses on paying attention to individual words and the order in which sentences and ideas unfold as they are read or presented, drawing on the Latin origins of the word explicare which means to unfold, to fold out, to set forth. However, critical attention is not paid to the meaning of words themselves as signs, but to those other meanings produced by looking at the materiality of words ‘close up’, through processes of visual magnification or microscopic observation. Close Reading inhabits the space between page and screen, existing as a series of short video works and composite poems constructed (almost through chance) from screen-grabs gleaned from the video editing process. I am uncertain whether the video is a byproduct or residue of the production of the text or vice versa, or whether both produce and are produced by each other simultaneously. As a writer, I am increasingly interested in the discrepancy between the temporal and spatial dimensions of writing, where the time that it takes to write words is condensed into the space that they occupy once ordered into line. The wrestle of how the words got there will soon be forgotten. Close Reading takes the temporal event of a text unfolding before a camera, and collapses it into the spatial form of a page. The translation from moving image to still reveals an entirely different grammar to that encountered in the video. The movement or unfolding of the video is pushed back as though behind the surface of the page, perhaps still imaginable as a loop stitch whose content remains latent within the work, rather than a visible part. Through these close readings, the time of reading one text becomes folded into the space of making another". 

Event: Process & Repetition - Hanne Darboven and Raphael Hefti

Sunrise/Sunset (installation view), 1984
385 sheets of paper, felt pen, postcards. 
Courtesy Camden Arts Centre and Konrad Fischer Galerie
I have been invited to introduce the forthcoming exhibitions by Hanne Darboven and Raphael Hefti at Camden Arts Centre, 20 January 2012 - 18 March 2012. Involving a dialogue with Raphael Hefti, the introduction will explore connections and points of resonance between the two artists’ work (as well as drawing on some of the ideas underpinning my own research including texts such as Over and Over Again and Again). This will be the first solo exhibition by Darboven in the UK and will feature a number of her large scale serial works which focus on the passage and structuring of time. These vast installations are formed of hand drawn notations and numbers, musical scores and texts which are sometimes accompanied by images and objects. It will also be Hefti’s first solo show in the UK and in this new work he will approach his investigations from a specific tangent: discovering mistakes in industrial processes and pushing them to a limit where aesthetic transformations take place.