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.

Publication: Improvisational Creativity

My journal article ‘What now, what next – kairotic coding and the unfolding future seized’ has been published in Digital Creativity Special Issue, on Improvisational Creativity (Volume 29, Number 1. Published February 2018). Guest Editors: Jon McCormack, Toby Gifford, Shelly Knotts.

My article can be read here.

About Improvisational Creativity: This special issue will examine the challenges and opportunities for creative improvisation between people and computer systems. Improvisation is one of the most demanding yet rewarding creative acts. It has been well studied in situations where individuals interact with tools, or in human groups. Recently however, the idea of computer systems being valuable creative partners has begun to gain acceptance and this is now an active research area in the Artificial Intelligence and Computational Creativity communities. But how do we effectively improvise with “intelligent” or “creative” machines? What are the creative and artistic challenges in building computational improvisational partners? How does the psychology of improvisation change when machines become part of an improvisational group? But how do we effectively improvise with “intelligent” or “creative” machines? What are the creative and artistic challenges in building computational improvisational partners? How can digital technologies and artificial intelligence support and enhance human creativity in an improvisational context?
Abstract: In this article, I propose a conceptual framework through which to consider the challenges and opportunities for kairotic improvisation within the practice of live coding, conceived as an embodied mode of imminent and immanent intervention and invention-in-the-middle, a practice of radical timing and timeliness. Expanding my previous reflections on kairotic coding (Cocker 2013, 2016, 2017), I argue how kairos can be understood as both a temporal ‘opening’ a cut or ‘nick’ in time and a ‘will-to-invent’ capable of responding to this opening in the ‘living present’ (Eric Charles White 1987). However, in this article my focus shifts to address the kairotic liveness within live coding’s improvisational performance by identifying two seemingly contradictory tendencies within this burgeoning genre. On the one hand, there is a call for improved media technologies enabling greater immediacy of semantic feedback, a shift towards predictive coding modeled on previous habits supporting a faster, more fluid perhaps even virtuoso species of programming ‘improvisation’. Alternatively, there remains interest within the live coding community for a mode of improvisational performativity that harnesses the unpredictable, the unexpected or as-yet-unknown, where performance stays a vital site for experimental exploration rather than for repeating the already tried-and-tested. I further draw attention to the different futurities within these two approaches: the difference within performance between a technologically-predicted ‘future’ based on what has-been, and the ever-emergent, living instant of the future conceived as ‘what now, what next’: the ‘to-come’.


Exhibition: Documents, Alternatives

Clare Thornton and I are presenting work from our ongoing collaboration The Italic I, as part of the unfolding curatorial project Documents, Alternatives (2017 – 2018). The Italic I is a collaborative enquiry for exploring the different states of potential made possible through purposefully surrendering to the event of a repeated fall. Parallel to performance and its visual documents, The Italic I has involved the production of a textual lexicon for reflecting on the different episodes within falling, generated through the ‘free-fall’ of conversational exchange. An attempt is made to slow and extend the duration of falling in order to elaborate upon its various phases or ‘scenes’. For Documents, Alternatives, at Airspace Gallery, Cocker and Thornton present a slowly looping text-work developed in dialogue with creative technologist Dane Watkins. 

Documents, Alternatives is curated by Ang Bartram and develops the curatorial concerns initiated within The Alternative Document, 2016, an exhibition and symposium staged at ProjectSpacePlus, Lincoln, 2015. Documents, Alternatives will unfold over a series of exhibitions and symposia including at Airspace Gallery (Stoke on Trent): 17 November – 16 December 2017; Verge Gallery, Sydney, 18 January - 24 February); B-Side Gallery (Bath Spa University): 20 April – 11 May 2018; ONCA Gallery (Brighton) as part of Brighton Digital Festival: 21 September – 8 October 2018. 

Symposium: Unmaking

Symposium on Unmaking, 11 November 2017, 10am-5pm, Sheffield Institute of Arts
Part of the Algomech festival of Algorithmic Mechanical Performance and Art. A review of the festival in The Wire magazine can be read here.

This arts-research symposium puts forward Unmaking as a form of resistance. The taking apart of technology - whether algorithmic or mechanic - is a step in reaching new understanding, whether cultural, historical, or technical. The focus on movement in this process, for example through choreographic, musical, textile, or political action, provides common language for discussion across disciplines. The symposium is convened by the PENELOPEproject, where the mythological figure of Penelope from Ancient Greece provides a universal paradigm of unmaking. Discussion will be lead by Ellen Harlizius-Klück, weaver, mathematician; Laura Sillars, curator; Ernest Edmonds, computer artist. Speakers include: Amy Twigger-Holroyd, reknitter; Emma Cocker, writer-artist; Flavia Carraro, anthropologist of technology and science; Naomi Kashiwagi, visual and sound artist; Christian Faubel, autonomous systems researcher, media artist; Sarah Kenchington, mechanical orchestrator; Amanda Ross, weaver-musician; Dave Griffiths, live coder, generalist; Giovanni Fanfani, classical philologist; Alex McLean, software artist, live coder; Lara Torres, fashion researcher.

Event: New Modes of Art Writing

My proposed paper, Writing without Writing: Conversation-as-Material, has been accepted as part of the forthcoming one-day symposium, New Modes of Art Writing, taking place at Manchester Metropolitan University, 10 November 2017.

“To encounter is to be turned, whether for a moment or for life; to encounter is always in part not to know, to be a little or to be very lost; to encounter is to surrender something of ones self, willing or otherwise….” (Benson & Connors 2014:5) About the event: How do we encounter art through different modes of writing? Interrogating the chiasm of the critical and the creative written voice: Is there a space where creating and experiencing art meets and converges with writing? If so, what is this space? And how might we theorize it? How can we use writing to explore the varied forms of visual arts practices? And how might we incorporate and situate writing within the context of our artistic research, and the wider practices of the arts and humanities? What tensions may arise in this alliance and is it possible that this hybrid form may propose something more than the sum of its parts? We would like to examine how art may incorporate different forms of writing to consider how traditional positions of objectivity and subjectivity can be challenged and whether there are ways of bridging the gap between different writing practices, in order for new forms to emerge. New Modes of Art Writing 2 intends to provide a space where we might rethink writing as a further agency of our creative practice, encouraging exploration of its potential as an artistic form and as a method of critical enquiry.

Abstract: Writing without Writing: Conversation-as-Material
This performative presentation elaborates a mode of art-writing entitled ‘conversation-as-material’ that I have developed through various collaborations as both artistic form and method of critical enquiry. Within this method, conversation is conceived not only for reflecting on practice but also as a generative practice in-and-of-itself, site and material for the construction of inter-subjective and immanent modes of linguistic ‘sense-making’ emerging from the enmeshing of different voices in live exchange. Whilst conversation often provides a verbal-linguistic means for reflecting on artistic research, conversation-as-material re-forms the relation between art and language through its quest for a not-yet-known vocabulary emerging synchronous to the live circumstances that it seeks to articulate. Here, meaning does not exist prior to utterance but rather is co-produced through the dialogic process itself, with recorded dialogue transcribed and distilled so as to reveal an emergent infra-personal textual poetics; excavation of language fragments through a form of ‘writing-without-writing’. Arguably, conversational transcript unfolds with a different textual texture or vitality contour to conventional writing; its cadence or rhythmic pacing – its pitch and intonation, the tempo of speech – involves the embodied rise and fall of inflection and emphasis, excited acceleration, hesitation and deliberation, syncopation, sentence incompletion, syllabic glides and slurs. Yet, rather than simply a dialogic archive, conversation-as-material considers the transcript as aesthetic material for playful appropriation and reworking, blurring the distinction between artistic production and reflection. My presentation brings performative examples from my own collaborative practice into dialogue with the conceptual work of Brian Massumi, Daniel Stern and poetic-philosophical writing of Hélène Cixous to reflect on the immanent quality of coming-into-language, of conversation as an aesthetic, art-writing practice.

Choreo-graphic Figures: Performance Lecture & Workshop

12 November 2017
Siobhan Davies Dance Studios, London
Independent Dance Workshop
On Sunday 12 November 2017 Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line will give a one day workshop (11:00 - 17:00) hosted by Independent Dance at Siobhan Davies Dance Studios, London, UK. Key researchers Emma Cocker, Nikolaus Gansterer and Mariella Greil ask: How can we develop systems of notation for identifying, marking and communicating the barely perceptible micro-movements at the cusp of awareness? How can we communicate the instability and mutability of the flows and forces within artistic practice, without ‘fixing’ that which is inherently dynamic and contingent as a literal sign? This workshop seeks out the choreo-graphic traces of translational processes, exploring the shifts of attention and modes of engagement happening at the passage from one medium – writing-drawing-choreography – to another. We will investigate somatic practices and compositional decision-making within a collaborative creative process based on embodied gestures. 

14 November 2017
Crossing Borders Talk
On Tuesday 14 November 2017, 19:00 - 20:30 Emma Cocker, Nikolaus Gansterer and Mariella Greil will present a performance lecture at the Crossing Borders Talks in the 2017 series at Independent Dance at Siobhan Davies Dance Studios, London, UK launching their recent publication Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line, De Gruyter, Berlin/Boston, 2017.

Symposia: Choreo-graphic Figures - Deviations from the Line

To mark the launch of the recent artistic research publication, Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line, we will be making a number of performative presentations of our research at various events and symposia including:

9 - 10 June
Choreo-graphic Figures in Zeichen Setzen
A performative presentation of the research project Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line by Emma Cocker, Nikolaus Gansterer, Mariella Greil in the framework of the symposium "Zeichen Setzen" (9 + 10 June 2017) co-organized by Monika Leisch-Kiesl, KU Linz & Toni Hildebrandt, University Bern; Stephan Grotz & Aloisia Moser, KU Linz; Karin Harrasser, University of Art and Design Linz; Rose Breuss, Anton Bruckner University, Linz.

11 - 13 August
Concluding the five year EU funded project "Life Long Burning" the symposium “What is at work in our works?” in the framework of ImPulsTanz festival Vienna will challenge together with international theoreticians and artists contemporary practices and conditions of production in a political context. The artistic research project Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line by Nikolaus Gansterer, Emma Cocker and Mariella Greil will contribute to the symposium with a performance lecture and present their new publication. 


Moving // Dialogues - Modes of Being (Together)

Curated and conceived by choreographer Sara Wookey, Moving // Dialogues: Modes of Being (Together) is a pilot programme and mobile platform that aims to create space and time for moving together and experimenting with forms of dialogue in order to imagine what can become. From 25 - 27 August, 2017 it was hosted by Kitiniras: Artistic Network for Performing Arts in Athens and involved Roderick Schrock, Director of Eyebeam (New York); Rennie Tang, architect and designer (Los Angeles); Emma Cocker, writer-artist (Sheffield/Nottingham, England). The programme consisted of: Moving // mixing and circulating; Improvising // imagination, participation, adaptation; Eating // environments and inter-action; Dialoguing // social interstices, interlocutors and states of encounter; Materialising // making and sharing from doing

*photo credit: Rennie Tang

Research 'convivium' - No Telos

I am currently working with NTU fine art colleagues towards the staging of a research ‘convivium’ entitled No Telos, which is scheduled to take place in Venice this September, as part of a wider academic partnership with the East Midlands 2017 (EM17) Research and Development project at the Venice Biennale. Convivium – pertaining to a feast: a model for being-with, from com - ‘with, together’, and vivere - ‘to live’, vital. We conceive the convivium as a social model for ‘spending time’ together to ‘feast’ on and explore shared research and ideas. The ‘convivium’ is a cross between an artists’ residency and symposium, held over 3 days we will explore and engage with the two separate key themed strands. The event will be held throughout the city, within the biennale, and over convivial communal evening meals.

No Telos
Telos – with its etymological origins in the Greek télos (end), téleios (perfected) and teleîn (fulfillment) – refers to an ultimate object or aim, a specific end or purpose. In teleological terms, the value of action is essentially goal-oriented, determined in relation to achievement and attainment, the event of completion, of finishing, of reaching the designed destination or target. Arguably, through its radical ‘purposeless purpose’, art operates in wilful refusal or subversion of this teleological tendency. The Venice Convivium takes the theme No Telos as its overarching guide, seeking to explore this through various approaches that emphasise the journey of process as a subversive or resistant act; that embrace the potential of open-endedness and unfixity as core principles; that privilege meandering, tarrying, waiting and deviation above finding the quickest path; that favour opening things up rather than reaching a conclusion. The principle of No Telos will be explored through two strands of enquiry that broadly address ideas of process + place respectively, provisionally identified as:
* Process as a subversive act: approached through the complementary practices of ‘doing’ (including ‘dirty practices’ and the rebellion of making, experimentation, play) and ‘not-doing’ (with an emphasis on a certain withdrawal of action through slowness and stillness, contemplation and observation, alongside meditative, durational or even ritualistic practices of attention)
* Place / Under construction: taking the site-specificity of Venice as an external stimulus or context for working ‘in situ’, this strand reflects on the inscription, description and narrativising of space and place, the contingent and provisional stories (histories, conversations, fictions) and [human] traces that collectively constitute and re-constitute the archaeology of locality.   
No Telos members include Andrew Brown, Emma Cocker, Katja Hock, Danica Maier, Andy Pepper, Derek Sprawson. EM17 partners include: New Art Exchange, Nottingham; Quad, Derby; Beacon Art Project, Lincolnshire; 1 Thoresby St., Nottingham.