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.

Writing: Salvage - Selective Resurrection

I am currently working on my book chapter entitled, Salvaging A Romantic Trope: The Conceptual Resurrection of the Shipwreck within Recent Art Practice, which will be published in the forthcoming book, The Semiotics of Shipwreck (ed.) Carl Thompson, (Routledge, 2013).

This chapter is proving a context for revisiting ideas in relation to failure, and for researching and thinking about the idea of the fragment in more depth. It has provided opportunity for engaging with a couple of recent publications addressing the idea of the fragment and the fragmentary including Camelia Elias', The Fragment: Towards a History and Poetics of a Performative Genre, (Peter Lang, 2004) and Hans-Jost Frey, Interruptions, trans. Georgia Albert, (State University of New York Press, 1996) a few fragment from which can be read below:

“The fragment that has been understood is not a fragment anymore. By being ordered into a context it is done away with. Here the process of understanding is a struggle against its object. This shows that an experience of the fragmentary is already at work in the will to understand – in the urge to do away with the fragmentary […] The understanding of the fragment that makes the fragment harmless can be understood by way of our fear of the unmasterable” [i]

“Fragmentariness cannot be overcome. If an understanding of the fragment is possible, it cannot be an understanding that, ordering, masters, but only one that seems through the arbitrariness of the contexts it puts together and that opens them over and over to the unmasterable, which only reaffirms itself in them. Such an understanding renounces closure and wholeness because it is only in this way that what is to be understood can remain reachable in its unreachability; such as understanding is in its essence – or in the trouble of its inessence – fragmentary. It grasps and leave meaning at the very edge of meaning”[ii]

[i]           Hans-Jost Frey, ‘Fragment and Whole’ in Interruptions, trans. Georgia Albert, (State University of New York Press, 1996), p.40
[ii]          Hans-Jost Frey, ‘Fragment and Whole’ in Interruptions, trans. Georgia Albert, (State University of New York Press, 1996), p.42-3

Reading Group: Spinoza’s Concept of Affect

Affect Readings @ Site Gallery, Sheffield
Thursday 3 May 2012, 6pm onwards
Spinoza’s Concept of Affect

The final reading group session at Site moves from considering the affective potential of collective witnessing, towards a return to origins of sorts – engaging with the notion of affect through the prism of a specifically Deleuzian-Spinozist set of readings. The session takes Gilles Deleuze’s Lecture on Spinoza’s Concept of Affect (Cours Vincennes, 1978) as its starting point for discussion, alongside the additional reading of the chapter Spinoza and Us (taken from Gilles Deleuze, Spinoza: Practical Philosophy, 1988).

Writing: Unwork

I am currently developing ideas for some new writing working with and around the idea of unwork.
Developing my approach from within recent writing (such as The Yes of the No!, Permission Granted and Room for Manoeuvre) I propose to explore the idea of unwork through a specifically semantic, as much as conceptual or theoretical line of enquiry. I am envisaging that the notion of unwork might be unraveled according to a number of ideas that could include:
- Unwork as a form of resistant or dissonant non-production or deviation of resources – a reversal, inversion, subversion, reworking of work’s time, specifically drawing on Michel de Certeau’s notion of ‘la perruque’.
Unwork as a term to describe or account for those forms of labour that refuse, resist, or otherwise fail to be easily classified as work (specifically in relation to notion of economic exchange) – the idea of vocation (including forms of spiritual labour); the figure of the volunteer, the amateur, the guardian, the player … duty of care ... labour of love … the relation of living to working (inherent in the term livelihood); ideas around the relation of meaning, meaningfulness, meaninglessness and work/unwork.
- Unwork in ‘palindromic’ relation to work where the work/unwork pairing is conceived as one of doing and undoing, making and unmaking. I am interested in exploring a shift from thinking about Sisyphean forms of labour (based on the mythic/absurd model of failure and repetition) which I have explored elsewhere (see Over and Over Again and Again) towards a form of Penelopian labour (the resistance inherent in the practice of doing/undoing, of refusing work’s closure or completion, by drawing on the mythic figure of the weaver/unweaver Penelope).
- From unwork to unworkable: something in the word unworkable which speaks of both redundancy and impotency (unemployment) at the same time as a kind of wildness (a utopian desire even?), something existing in excess of what is considered workable, utilitarian, practical, possible.

Various texts and artistic practices are functioning as interlocutors or provocateurs for considering these ideas: Simone Weil's writing on duty, labour, training; Michel de Certeau's The Practices of Everyday Life; Lars Svendsen's dual texts on Boredom and Work; Michael Hardt on Affective Labour; artist Walter de Maria's Meaningless Work and Boxes for Meaningless Work; Pilvi Takala's The Trainee; Tacita Dean's The Presentation Sisters; Vlatka Horvat's This Here and That There; work by Cool and Balducci; Francis Alys' Bolero (Shoe Shine Blues) and other work in relation to rehearsal; work by Hanne Darboven; Cummings and Lewandoska's Enthusiasm (arranged into the categories of Love, Labour, Longing

These ideas were initially presented in response to an invitation from SCAF (Sheffield Contemporary Art Forum) to develop a position statement in relation to the next Sheffield Art Sheffield (2013), specifically exploring potential threads or links between the previous two festivals, ArtSheffield08, Yes No and Other Options (curated by Jan Verwoert) and ArtSheffield10, Life: A Users Manual (curated by Frederique Bergholtz and Annie Fletcher). 

Exhibition: Accidentally on Purpose

I have been invited to contribute to the public programme of the exhibition, Accidentally on Purpose  (QUAD, Derby, 
July 27 - October 7 2012) curated by Candice Jacobs and Fay Nicolson.

An exhibition, online publication, audio project and symposium exploring the occurrence of repeating problems and strategies for (re)approaching them. 

The exhibition takes its title from an American Sitcom situated in the banality of the everyday. Its characters strive to make the best of an unfortunate situation; repetitively re-negotiating the uncertainty of their lives. The desire for escapism through the consumption of mass broadcasts and episodic formulae offers an interesting context for this exhibition; which connects the quotidian sitcom to an exploration into the relationship between success and failure, looking at common place materials, familiar situations and repetitious processes as a point of departure. Artists include: Becky Beasley, Karen Cunningham, Michael Dean, Cyprien Gaillard, Ryan Gander, Paul Graham, Jonathan Monk, Rose O’Gallivan, Edit Olderbolz, Clunie Reid, Dan Rees, George Shaw and Ryszard Wasko.

More to follow soon.

Performance: Drawing on Drawing a Hypothesis (V)

Below are some images of the performance-lecture Drawing on Drawing a Hypothesis, performed on the opening night of An Exhibition on the Study of Knowledge, at Stadtpark Forum, Graz on 13th April 2012. The lecture was presented from Marjolijn Dijkman’s LUNÄ (2011), a facsimile of the original table around which an influential group of industrialists and thinkers known as the Lunar Society would meet each month in Birmingham. An Exhibition on the Study of Knowledge includes work by Rossella Biscotti, Marjolijn Dijkman, Nikolaus Gansterer, Toril Johannessen, Pilvi Takala, Haegue Yang, Gernot Wieland, and was curated by Margit Neuhold and Fatos UstekPrevious iterations of the performance-lecture have taken place at  (Part I) M HKA, Antwerp; (Part II) KNAW and (Part III) Kunsthalle Project Space, Vienna, and (Part IV) NGBK, Berlin. A recent review of the publication Drawing a Hypothesis: Figures of Thought can be read here. The images below are from Drawing on Drawing a Hypothesis, Nikolaus Gansterer & Emma Cocker, Documentation of a performance-lecture installation at Stadtpark Forum, Graz, performed from Marjolijn Dijkman’s LUNÄ (2011) and Haegue Yang (images on the left)

Event: Site/Off-Site/Non-Site

Wednesday 11 April, 10 – 12.00

Nottingham Trent University
Becky Beinart and Mat Trivett (Wasteland Twinning Project); Jennie Syson (Hinterland) and Emma Cocker (Urban Retreat / Manual for Marginal Places).
This lecture explores three different projects that deal with specific marginal sites as their point of provocation. Drawing on the experiences of these projects, invited speakers interrogate the critical and creative potential of the wastleand or 'edgeland', addressing notions of liminality, classification and questions around the social, ecological and cultural value of the marginal landscape.
Suggested Reading
Ignasi de Solà-Morales, Terrain Vague