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.

Research project: Choreo-graphic Figures

From 4 – 7 June, I was in Vienna working with Nikolaus Gansterer and Mariella Greil within the context of our collaborative research project, Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations of the Line. Specifically, we will be working together to develop a page-based contribution to be submitted to the forthcoming issue of Performance Research Journal, Vol. 20, No. 6: ‘On An/Notations’ (December 2015). Co-Editors: Scott deLahunta, Kim Vincs and Sarah Whatley (Deakin University [Motion.Lab] AUS & Coventry University [Centre for Dance Research] UK).

Notion of Notation & Notation of Notion

Drawing on findings from the first year of the research project Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line (specifically from field-work undertaken during a month-long research residency within ImPulsTanz [Vienna, July – August 2014] & within the context of a one-week residency/workshop working with researchers at apass [Centre of Advanced Performance & Scenography Studies, Brussels, Feb, 2015]), our intent is to share & put pressure on our recent explorations around both the ‘notion of notation’ & the ‘notation of notion’, exploring the format of a page-based annotated performance score, itself a diagramming of the multiple & at times competing forces & energies operative within artistic collaborative practice. We propose to investigate notation (& its related technologies) through two concepts: figuring & (choreo-graphic) figure: (1) The Notion/Notation of Figuring: We use the term ‘figuring’ to describe a state of emergence or experiential shift, the barely perceptible movements & transitions at the cusp of awareness within the process of “sense-making”, asking what different systems of notation can be developed for cultivating awareness of & for marking and identifying the moments of “figuring” within live investigative action? (2) The Notion/Notation of Figure: We use the term ‘figure’ to describe the point at which figuring coalesces into a recognizable + repeatable form, asking how might the performed ‘figure’ be a system of notation in & of itself? Our shared quest is both for a system of notation for honouring the process of figuring (as a live investigative event) & for “choreo-graphic” figures for making tangible & communicating these significant moments within the unfolding journey of collaborative practice.

Publication: The Italic I (Studio as Gymnasium)

The Italic I (Studio as Gymnasium) – a 'thought experiment' produced in collaboration with Clare Thornton – has been published in Drain Magazine, in the issue on Athleticism.

Abstract: The Italic I (Studio as Gymnasium): The Italic I is a practice-based collaboration between writer-artist Emma Cocker and interdisciplinary artist Clare Thornton, for exploring the various states of potential made possible through purposefully surrendering to the event of a repeated fall. Within our artistic investigation … the studio or gallery is approached as a gymnasium within which to practice falling; however, the purpose of practicing is not towards a telos, the perfection of a given move or some future performance. Rather, falling is repeated in a move towards deeper understanding, for becoming more sensitized to the experience, more attuned to its risings and falls, its intensities and durations. In these terms, the athleticism inherent within the activity itself becomes a means for increasing one’s capacity (as it is practiced), for producing unexpected forms of embodied knowledge and augmented subjectivity.

About the issue Athleticism: The word ‘athletic’ derives from the Greek, athlēō (‘compete for a prize’). In this schema, the ‘prize’ is the thing competed for, but this can be defined in many ways: as a gift, a kiss, a drop of blood, or a ribbon. We are often told that the prize is not important but participation is. The athlete models subjectivity, the body, desire, social relations, matter and chance in order to achieve a measure of success, recognition, mastery, the deferral of death and emptiness, a place in history, an apotheosis of self-love, among other things. How can artworks, essays, thought experiments, interventions, social events and encounters allow us to critically analyze and even undo the habitual idioms, rules and expectations surrounding athleticism as a measure or even as an outcome? Is it possible to create a differently dispersed athleticism that shows us what a body can do, what a care of the body can mean, or indeed, arranges new relations between bodies in order to attain a hitherto unimaginable prize? In what ways can we think through/work away from/deconstruct the fascistic tendencies of the ‘competitive spirit’ in order to arrange new rhythms and durations, participative networks and subjectivities? Can athleticism be situated within a more radical play of performances and acts that involve unanticipated outcomes and risks? Put in another way, how can a radical undoing of the telos of the athlete lead us to redefine what is worth struggling for?

This issue of Drain presents Rachel Rampleman as the Feature Artist; a selection of work from her Body Builder series explores subjects like gender, artifice, and spectacle through the tinge of a very American lens. The work is accompanied with text by Alex Young and David Mitchell. Critical essays by Joel Nathan RoseIra Halpern and Victoria Wynne-Jones address and examine aspects of sports, youth, masculinity and addiction. The Thought Experiments section, for shorter critical works, includes evocative pieces by Emma Cocker and Clare Thornton, Sandy Gibbsand Sarah Stefana Smith. The issue also features reviews of the recent exhibitions; Germaine Koh’s League by Louise Rusch, while Sarah Walko reviews the works of Craig Drennen. There is also an extensive Creating Writing section, which includes works of poetry and short fiction by Joseph Ramelo, Germaine Koh and Nathaniel Sullivan. A compelling selection of artworks and projects by Brandon Bauer, John G. Boehme, David Cross, Robert Ladislas Derr, Henry Gwiazda, Amelia Johannes, Cheryl Pope, and Jean-Michel Rolland variously engage with notions of Athleticism, sports and contemporary culture in this issue as do interviews with David Cross by Cameron BishopAnna Wittenberg by Joshua West Smith and Matt Hern by Elizabeth Spavento.

Reflections: Weaving/Coding

Productive few days of working and reflection in the Museum für Abgüsse Klassischer Bildwerke in Munich with Ellen Harlizius-Klück, Dave Griffiths and Alex McLean, as part of the project Weaving Codes/Coding Weaves. Whilst paying attention to the work and dialogue between Ellen, Dave and Alex, the context for the museum also provided a critical context in itself for reflecting on the project (including through a form of visual/photographic note-taking which will be returned to as provocation for future writing). Above, Penelope (the weaver) and Artemis/Diana (the hunter/archer) - in close proximity in the museum. A kairotic connection perhaps? Kairos has origins in two different sources: archery, where as Eric Charles White notes, it describes “an opening or ‘opportunity’ or, more precisely, a long tunnel like aperture through which the archer’s arrow has to pass”, and weaving where there is “a ‘critical time’ when the weaver must draw the yarn through a gap that momentarily opens in the warp of the cloth being woven” (Eric Charles White, 1987. Kaironomia: On the Will to Invent. Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London: 13).

The experience of being in the Museum für Abgüsse Klassischer Bildwerke provided a context for thinking through the ideas related to the Weaving Codes/Coding Weaves (specifically in relation to Penelopean labour) from a different perspective, through the provocation of various encounters therein (some examples of encounter below) which offered a very particular prism for reflection. Ideas of live coding/weaving to manual dexterity (or loss thereof); different modalities of sense-making (embracing tactility, temporality, embodied experience, perhaps even the politics and poetics of écriture féminine); the relation between weaving/unweaving to folding/unfolding/refolding; reversibility and also irreversibility; the notion of the version (as a site of repetition or iteration but with variation, the possibility of different inflection); the relation between cuts and continuities in notation (discontinuous and continuous systems for describing both the experience of coding and of weaving); practices for 'making tangible' the hidden or invisible, the immaterial or seemingly virtual, through the spatialisation of process as well as attending to the nature of its temporality  .... more to follow. 

Visual 'note-taking' in the Museum für Abgüsse Klassischer Bildwerke

From my recent paper 'Live Coding / Weaving - Penelopean Mêtis and the Weaver-Coder’s Kairos', "I think of Luce Irigaray when she says, “one must listen differently in order to hear an other meaning which is constantly in the process of weaving itself, at the same time ceaselessly embracing words and yet casting them off to avoid becoming fixed immobilised” (Irigaray 1980: 103). A Penelopean labour - doing and undoing - but not the repetitive practice of sameness, but rather one of attending to difference, to the potential twists, variations and permutations of the thread or code. Here, a ‘doing-undoing-redoing’ perhaps akin to the Deleuzian conceptualization of a plier/déplier/replier, where the act of folding, unfolding and refolding “no longer simply means tension-release, contraction-dilation, but enveloping-developing, involution-evolution” (Deleuze 2006: 9).

Below is a draft version of my paper, 'Live Coding / Weaving - Penelopean Mêtis and the Weaver-Coder’s Kairos'. An initial version of this paper was presented at the Threads and Codes symposium. This current version will be presented at the International Conference on Live Coding, 13 - 15 July 2015, University of Leeds, UK. ICLC is the first International Conference on Live Coding, hosted by ICSRiM in the School of Music, University of Leeds, UK, and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the Live Coding Research Network. http://iclc.livecodenetwork.org/