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.

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.