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.

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. 


Symposium: Doing Deceleration

The Space, Nottingham Contemporary
Tuesday 4 July, 2017
The imperative to ‘do deceleration’ is less a call to ‘slow down’, to withdraw or retreat from the process of production as such. Instead, the invitation is to explore ways in which we might disrupt or dislodge the pressure of acceleration: the ubiquitous demands to do more and more – faster and faster – that arguably underpin our contemporary culture of immediacy and urgency,of 24/7 access and availability, with its privileging ofmultitasking, perpetual readiness and ethos of ‘just-in-time’ production. In one sense, the requirement to do more and more can result in a reality of less and less, the cultivation of superficial engagement overriding the possibility of deep, sustained immersion; diminishing the potential of attention and concentration. How does the art school or even the artists’ studio respond to or alternatively refuse these cultural tendencies? How might the space-time of the studio or residency provide an alternative model for practice, perhaps even offer the conditions of resistance? Less the reactive manifestation ofchrono-phobic anxiety, how might doing deceleration reveal rest and reflection as active components of artistic production, the practice of doing-nothing as complementary rather than oppositional to action? Here, radical deceleration does not involve the retreat towards the promise of a singular (slower) temporality, but rather has the capacity to reveal and bring into relation a plurality of micro-temporal co-incidings. Speakers include: Henk Slager, Mick Wilson, Adrian Heathfield, Finn Janning and Danica Maier. Chaired by Emma Cocker.

Ane Hjort Guttu, Time Passes (still), 2015

Doing Deceleration is a partnership between Nottingham Trent University ‘Summer Lodge’ and Nottingham Contemporary, programmed in conjunction with Exhausted Academies, an exhibition project curated by Visiting Professor Henk Slager (Nottingham Contemporary, 30 June – 5 July 2017). Exhausted Academies asks how might we rethink the relation between artistic research and the art academy, specifically through a critique of the ‘exhausting’ achievement-oriented and instrumentalised tendencies of the contemporary neoliberal institution, and a return to a ‘verticalist’ perspective that ‘makes space’ for attention and concentration; for experiment, novel questions and speculation; for reflexivity, new modes of imagination; for an open-ended form of differential thinking that values not-knowing, the singular, the affective, the transgressive, and the unforeseen.

Journal Article: Penelopean Mêtis and the Weaver-Coder’s Kairos

A PDF of the article can be downloaded here.

Abstract: Drawing on my experience as ‘critical interlocutor’ within the research project Weaving Codes / Coding Weaves, in this article I reflect on the human qualities of attention, cognitive agility and tactical intelligence activated within live coding and ancient weaving with reference to the Ancient Greek concepts of technē, kairos and mêtis. The article explores how the specificity of ‘thinking-in-action’ cultivated within improvisatory live coding relates to the embodied ‘thought-in-motion’ activated whilst working on the loom. Echoing the wider concerns of Weaving Codes / Coding Weaves, an attempt is made to redefine the relation between weave and code by dislodging the dominant utilitarian histories that connect computer and the loom, by instead placing emphasis on the potentially resistant and subversive forms of live thinking-and-knowing cultivated therein. I address the Penelopean poetics of both live coding and ancient weaving, proposing how the combination of kairotic timing and timeliness with the mêtic act of ‘doing-undoing-redoing’ therein offers a subversive alternative to – even critique of – certain utilitarian technological developments (within both coding and weaving) which in privileging efficiency and optimization can delimit creative possibilities, reducing the potential of human intervention and invention in the seizing of opportunity, accident, chance and contingency.

Conference Panel: Coming to Writing

Drawing on connections arising within the newly established Critical Poetics research group (see previous post), I will be giving a performative presentation within a panel session entitled Coming to Writing, along with Dr Zayneb Allak and Dr Sarah Jackson, as part of the NTU ‘Critical and Creative’ conference (6 -7 July 2017). Responding to the ‘Critical and Creative’ conference theme, our panel presentation on Critical Poetics brings together current scholarship from English, Creative Writing and Fine Art. Engaging with Hélène Cixous’s Coming to Writing (1991) and other works, Allak, Cocker and Jackson each explore and enact the intersections between creative and critical theory and practice as follows:

Dr Zayneb Allak, Spider Poetics - Writing the Uncanny: What does it mean ‘to spider’? To be sensed, to appear, to stop? To crawl, climb, run up a spine? Hide, escape, shift in shape? Arachnological research shows us that to move in a manner suggestive of a real-life spider means to tiptoe, walk, run, jump, cartwheel, balloon, swim and sail and, of course, to cast a web. In both poetry and prose, this creative/critical paper examines ways in which writing ‘spiders’ into being.

Dr Sarah Jackson, Crossed Lines: Writing and Telephony
By offering us a voice without a body – a voice that is at once at a distance and right inside our heads – the telephone causes a particular kind of interference in thinking and writing. But this destabilizing force is one that we might celebrate rather than avoid, for the effects of telephony lead us to reappraise not simply acts of speaking and listening, but also the means, medium and materiality of the text.

Emma Cocker, Writing without Writing - Conversation as Material
Conversation-as-material involves the quest for a not-yet-known vocabulary emerging synchronous to the situation it seeks to articulate, where meaning does not exist prior to the event of utterance, rather it is discovered (often retrospectively) through a inter-subjective dialogic process; moreover, through the transcription and distillation of recorded conversation towards an emergent, immanent poetics. 

Research group: Critical Poetics

I am part of a new research group at Nottingham Trent University called Critical Poetics, established by Sarah Jackson and Zayneb Allak. Critical Poetics is an interdisciplinary research group that seeks to stimulate debate, collaboration and innovation among scholars and practitioners whose work is concerned with creative and critical theory and practice. It explores possibilities for the text that are engendered by unconventional, unexpected and cross-disciplinary approaches.

“We are at a loss: we don’t know what to call ourselves. The name, ‘Critical Poetics’, approaches our purpose and function, but does not quite encapsulate all that we do. From the Greek ‘poeisis’ meaning ‘to make’, we understand ‘poetics’ as ‘the creative principles informing any literary, social or cultural construction, or the theoretical study of these; a theory of form’ (Oxford English Dictionary). And we understand ‘critical’ as ‘occupied with or skilful in criticism’, and ‘criticism’ as ‘the art of estimating the qualities and character of literary or artistic work’ (OED). But we do not wish only to critique artistic works, or the process of creating these works; rather, we also want to explore the ways in which we can engage with these works, how we can interact and play with them, and how, in that interaction and play, we can create our own texts. How can our criticism be as creative, as dynamic, as innovative and poetic as that which it analyses? And how can our creative works also offer a critical intervention? Are we critics first and artists later, or vice versa, or both at once? Does it help us to focus on the border between the two, or could we simply dismantle it? If our writing is at once creative and critical, and if we are concerned less with division than with unity, what name might we give to what we do?”

Tentative thematics for the Critical Poetics research group include: On Home, On Monsters, On Orbit, On Play, On Spiders, On Tact, On Telephony, On Travel, On the Uncanny, On (Un)ending, On the Unknown, On the Unthinkable.

Project: Kobitadihi... Visual Poetry Anthology

I have been invited by writer, curator and editor Philip Davenport to contribute work to a new international visual poetry anthology, curated by American poet Karl Kempton. The anthology is India's first online visual text art blog, with posts starting to appear online in Spring 2017, and will feature visual text arts such as visual poetry, minimalist poetry, book art, mail art, word painting, contemporary calligraphy, word sculpture, visual text centered collage, visual text centered photography, mathematical poetry and other kindred expressions. Examples of my own work within the anthology will include art-writing comprised of dense prose-poetry paragraphs; a fragmentary poetics produced through ‘close reading’ practised as visual magnification; ‘conversation as material’ - a collaborative approach using distilled transcription for producing an immanent, infrapersonal mode of writing-without-writing; alongside artistic research addressing the knowing-thinking-feeling emerging through the deviation between expanded writing, drawing and choreographic practices.