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.

New research project: Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line

The interdisciplinary research project Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line (2014 - 2016), led by artist Nikolaus Gansterer (Austria/Vienna) in collaboration with choreographer-dancer Mariella Greil (Austria/Vienna) and artist-writer Emma Cocker (UK/Nottingham), in dialogue with a team of international critical interlocutors was approved funded by the FWF PEEK research grant of Austria. With ‘arts-based research’ at its heart, this research project stages an inter-subjective encounter between drawing (Gansterer), choreography (Greil) and writing (Cocker) in order to a) investigate those forms of ‘thinking-feeling-knowing’ produced through collaborative, interdisciplinary exchange, ‘between the lines’ of drawing, dance and writing, b) explore the performativity of notation (figures of thought, speech and movement) for articulating and making tangible this enquiry, c) contribute new knowledge and understanding to debates about the specificity of artistic enquiry and expanded practices of drawing, dance and writing.The project explores the nature of ‘thinking-in-action’ or ‘figures of thought’ produced as the practices of drawing, choreography and writing enter into dialogue, overlap and collide. Through processes of reciprocal exchange, dialogue and negotiation between the key researchers, Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line will interrogate the interstitial processes, practices and knowledge(s) produced in the ‘deviation’ for example, from page to performance, from word to mark, from line to action, from modes of flat image making towards transformational embodied encounters.

Key researchers:

Nikolaus Gansterer (University of Applied Arts / Vienna / Austria)
Mariella Greil (PhD candidate at University of Roehampton / London / UK)
Emma Cocker (Nottingham Trent University / Nottingham / UK)
Christine de Smedt (Parts / Brussels)
Lilia Mestre (Apass / Brussels)
Alex Arteaga (UdK / Berlin)
Funded by the Austrian Science Fund FWF – PEEK art-based research grant of Austria
Website (under construction): http://www.choreo-graphic-figures.net

Details about the project as it unfolds will also be archived here.

Research Collaboration: Beyond the Line (Part 1)

Between 2 - 7 December 2013, I was working in Vienna at WUK with artist Nikolaus Gansterer and choreographer Mariella Greil on the pilot phase of a project entitled Beyond the Line, developing a working methodology for exploring ideas around interdisciplinary collaboration. Beyond the Line was conceived as ‘test-bed’ for exploring collaborative methods for working between and beyond the disciplinary lines of drawing, dance and writing. Ideas and working processes emerging from Beyond the Line will be developed further as part of a 3-year collaborative research project between myself, Gansterer and Greil entitled Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line 2014 – 2017 (funded by the Austrian Program for Arts-based Research, PEEK).

Publication: Indifference in Difference

My interview with Helen Chadwick entitled Indifference in Difference (originally published in MAKE magazine, Issue.71, 1996) has been selected for inclusion in the forthcoming publication, The MAKE Anthology: Reviewing the Past and Looking to the Future of Women's Art Practice (eds.) Maria Walsh and Mo Throp (I. B. Tauris, 2014). "With the recent resurgence of interest in the history of women's art practice by art students, art historians and artists in the UK ... the contributions to MAKE are crucial to the framing of current issues in women's art practices ... to set a new foundation for the understanding of women's art practices in the twenty-first century." More to follow soon.

Presentation: Writing Unwriting

On 30 October, I presented a lecture as part of the NTU fine art context lecture series, in response to the words Writing/Unwriting. I often describe my practice as operating restlessly along the threshold of writing/art, involving performative, collaborative and creative prose approaches to writing about, parallel to and as art practice. 

In this presentation, I moved from elaborating upon the idea of writing ‘in parallel to’ (with reference the rhetorical practice of ekphrasis, art-writing and various artist/writer collaborations including Hélène Cixous and Roni Horn) towards exploring various forms of writing as art practice (specifically those practices located at the interstice of conceptual art and its legacies, performance art and its various forms of inscription [notation, scores, scripts], and experimental forms of literature). I used the presentation to outline an emerging strand of my evolving research enquiry in which I am interested in recuperating critical value for the idea of poetic. Whilst the term ‘poetic’ is at times used rather disparagingly within the art world, I am currently exploring references to poetry or the poetic which speak instead of its resistance, even radical or political potential, poetry as a form of refusal, an affirmative form of language for speaking of things which don't yet have a language, or which refuse the conventional forms of naming and knowing.

“Poetry opens the doors of perception to singularity. Poetry is language’s excess: poetry is what in language cannot be reduced to information, and is not exchangeable, but gives way to a new common ground of understanding, of shared meaning: the creation of a new world […] Poetry is the reopening of the indefinite, the ironic act of exceeding the established meaning of words […] Poetry is … the signifier disentangled from the limits of the signified”. Franco Berardi, The Uprising, Poetry and Finance, 2012

Drawing on references including Franco Berardi’s The Uprising, Poetry and Finance (2012); Ed Sander’s Investigative Poetry (1976); Hélène Cixous’ quest for a form of language for speaking of the nature of thinking in flight, not as thought made concrete and communicable; Jan Turnovský's The Poetics of a Wall Projection, where he states that “The maxim of the poetic is not to fix meaning but to offer a choice of possibilities – an indeterminate open-endedness”, Jacques Ranciere on the 'difficulty' of Stéphane Mallarmé's poetry, I sketched out my interest in the resistant potential of the poetic form: in relation to its open-endedness, its capacity for opacity, absurdity, emptiness, even muteness; the material and sonorous properties of poetic language in contrast to the language of signification; forms of ‘writing’ that emerge between the word and the page; a poetry intent on unfixing meaning, destabilizing the view of writing as a means of knowledge and control.

Presentation: What now, What Next - Kairotic Imagination and the Unfolding Future Seized

First then, to set the scene […] There is a room, stripped back, bare. Maybe the lights are dimmed. Illumination comes from a chain of naked light bulbs — of different colours perhaps — strung up somewhat haphazardly … and from the gleam of a spotlight, which picks out two figures from the surrounding dark. Two figures – let’s say a man and a woman. They pause … then begin to speak. It would be improper to steal the thunder of their very first line, so … imagine an ellipsis … the dot-dot-dot of passing time. Two figures exchanging visions of the future, swapping narratives of optimism and despair, utopian and dystopian imaginings. A man and a woman, illuminated, mid-flow in the to-and-fro of exchange: “… in the future, everyone will have brown eyes; or ... in the future there’ll be no word for weekend; or ... in the future small will be beautiful; or... in the future no-one will care about algebra or trigonometry or sequence patterns or anything mathematical because computers will do it all, no problem; or ... people will grow an extra thumb for quicker texting; or, people will learn to walk on water; or, everyone will speak all the languages of the world; or ... no-one will remember the seventies … or buses … or takeaways or… dirty weekends”. The two continue to imagine what the future might be like through an unfolding litany of prediction, projection, prospection and prophecy: “in the future; or … in the future; or … in the future … or … or … or ” and so on.

My full paper, What now, What Next - Kairotic Imagination and the Unfolding Future Seized, can be read below. The paper was presented as a key-note at In Imagination: The Future Reflected in Art and Argument, at University of Sheffield, 4 Oct 2013.

Exhibition: Agora - Now what?

Drawing on Drawing a Hypothesis, a video 'performance lecture' work made in collaboration with Nikolaus Gansterer is going to be exhibited as part of the following biennale.

29 September–1 December, 2013
Former Athens Stock Exchange

Given that 2011 was the year of protesting and dreaming dangerously, 2013 prompts us to think responsively and come up with useful ideas and suggestions. At a time when the financial crisis in Greece and elsewhere is reaching a highpoint, the 4th Athens Biennale (AB4) cannot but respond to this bleak situation through a pertinent question: Now what? This year the Biennale will set out to explore creative alternatives to a state of bankruptcy. Using the empty building of the former Athens Stock Exchange as its main venue, AB4 proposes AGORA not only as a place of exchange and interaction, but also as an ideal setting for critique. Contrary to an idealized image of the ancient agora, this new AGORA points to a radical re-orientation in thinking—one that entails judgment, ruptures and conflict. As a contested space where multiple theses and doctrines emerge, this AGORA cannot be taken for granted: it aims for pleasure and purpose; it opts for the carnivalesque and the ambiguous, for the significant as much as the insignificant. AGORA draws on the notions of the assembly and the assemblage. Conceived both as a living organism and an exquisite corpse, it is formulated through a succession of objects, collaborative events, performances, roundtable discussions, film screenings, workshops and educational programs. In AGORA works and theses evoke that which is urgently needed at this particular moment: an engaged subjectivity, an unearthing of timely attitudes, a reevaluation of artistic strategies, a deconstruction of mystifying narratives.

My Brain Is in My Inkstand: Drawing as Thinking and Process

November 16, 2013 – March 30, 2014 

Cranbrook Art Museum
curated by independent curator Nina Samuel
Drawing on Drawing a Hypothesis is also included as part of the exhibition My Brain Is in My Inkstand: Drawing as Thinking and Process, an exhibition debuting at Cranbrook Art Museum that brings together 22 artists from around the world to redefine the notion of drawing as a thinking process in the arts and sciences alike. Sketches on paper are the first materialized traces of an idea, but they are also an instrument that makes a meandering thought concrete. Inspired by the accompanying exhibition The Islands of Benoît Mandelbrot, the exhibition uses multiple sources to show how drawings reveal the interdependency of mark making and thinking, how tracing lines is a prerequisite for all mental activity.