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.

Biography & Statement

Emma Cocker is a writer-artist and Associate Professor in Fine Art. Operating under the working title Not Yet There, Emma’s research focuses on artistic processes and practices, and the performing of ‘thinking-in-action’ emerging therein; on models of (art) practice and subjectivity that resist the pressure of a single, stable position by remaining wilfully unresolved. Emma has a specific interest in artistic research, alongside the relation between writing and artistic research-practices including writing in-with-and-through practice, writing-as-practice, alongside various ‘expanded’ forms of writing, language and text-based approaches. 

Emma’s research can be conceived as a series of interlocking clusters of enquiry:

Performing Thinking in Action – focusing on the process of artistic endeavour and the experiential thinking-in-action therein, this enquiry asks: How is artistic thinking, thinking-through-doing, thinking with-and-through practice? What is at stake in the shift of attention from the measurable outputs of artistic activity to a heightened awareness of its qualitative processes: the unfolding decision-making, the not-knowing, the navigation of competing forces, the activity of working with/through obstacles or of ‘figuring’ something out? Emma is currently working on a publication called Being in the Midst: Performing Thinking in Action, which considers these interests from a broad and transforming perspective to include diverse fields such as visual arts, performance, choreography as well as expanded language-based practices. How is thinking-in-action performed with and through the body (through dance, somatic practice); with others (through collaboration); with and through drawing; with and through language practices of conversation, reading, writing; with and through material encounters (with objects, with media, with technologies, even with code)?

Aesthetic Practices of Existence – existing in the space between art and philosophy, ethics and aesthetics, this enquiry explores different (artistic) practices that could be considered as ‘practices of the existence’ or ‘arts of living’ where life is conceived as a malleable material that can be approached (in philosopher Michel Foucault's terms) as if it were a ‘work of art’. This enquiry involves the exploration of different tactics and practices through which everyday life is explored in ethico-aesthetic terms, as a creative space of resistance and affirmation, through various practices of attention and awareness, for being-with as well as for being-apart.

Expanded Language-based Practices – this enquiry unfolds restlessly along the margins of writing/art, including experimental, performative and collaborative approaches to working with and through language, using a matrix of writing, reading and speaking practices. Emma’s research is concerned with the critical poetics of language, the visual and physical materiality of language, alongside an interest in experimental reading and conversation-based practices. Emma is a member of the NTU Critical Poetics Research Group - NTU Critical Poetics Research Group. She is co-founder of the Society of Artistic Research Special Interest Group on Language-based Artistic Research. See https://www.researchcatalogue.net/view/835089/835129

Emma often works in collaboration with other artists, as well as operating as an invited critical interlocutor within diverse research projects. In 2019, she was an invited artistic researcher as part of the Research Pavilion, Venice. From 2014 – 2017 she was a key researcher on the international, interdisciplinary research project Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line, a collaboration with Vienna-based artist Nikolaus Gansterer and choreographer Mariella Greil (funded by PEEK, Austria). She was an invited critical interlocutor as part of the international research project Weaving Codes – Coding Weaves funded by the AHRC Digital Transformations Amplification (2014 – 2016), extending from her involvement in the previous AHRC research project, Live Notation: Transforming Matters of Performance, 2012.

Previous artistic collaborations include working in dialogue with the performance-based collective Open City from 2007 – 2010 and The Italic I (2012 – 2018), a collaborative artistic research project with Clare Thornton resulting in a series of national and international exhibitions and publications. She has produced numerous artists’ books in collaboration with artists including Rose Butler (Above + Beyond, 2018), Victoria Gray (Manual, 2014), Sara Wookey and Bianca Scliar Mancini (Performing the City, 2012), and Sophie Mellor (Manual for Marginal Places, 2011), and has written essays on the work of various artists including Belén Cerezo (in Seeing Bodies, 2020); Danica Maier (in Grafting Propriety, Black Dog Publishing, 2016), Ben Judd (in Communion, Black Dog Publishing, 2014); Vlatka Horvat (in In Other Words …, Bergen Kunsthall, 2011); Dutton and Swindells (in Institute of Beasts, Site Gallery, 2009); Karin Kihlberg and Reuben Henry (in Beginnings, VIVID, 2012), FrenchMottershead (in People, Places, Process: The Shops Project, Site Gallery, 2010), Cool and Balducci (in Dance Theatre Journal).

Emma has presented papers and performance lectures nationally and internationally, at artistic research events including Society of Artistic Research and Swiss Artistic Research Network conferences, as well as at various art and performance festivals including ImPulsTanz, Vienna and ANTI festival, Kuopio, Finland. From 2001 – 2005 Emma was co-editor of the publication series Transmission: Speaking and Listening (Site Gallery / Sheffield Hallam University). Emma is a peer-reviewer for the Journal of Artistic Research, RUUKKU - Studies in Artistic Research, AREA, TRACEY, Rhizomes, Journal of Visual Arts Practice, Journal of Art, Design and Communication in Higher Education and Project Anywhere, and is on the Editorial Board for The Journal of Architecture and Culture.

Emma’s writing on contemporary art has been published in magazines/journals including Frieze, Camera Austria, Dance Theatre Journal, The Art Book, Journal of Writing in Creative Practice, art + research and Performance Research Journal. Her writing has been 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, 2018, and as a solo collection entitled The Yes of the No, 2016. With Alex Arteaga and Juha Himanka, Emma is co-editor of a Special Issue, “Practices of Phenomenological and Artistic Research”, of the Journal of Phenomenology and Practice. She is currently working on the co-authored publication Live Coding: A Users’ Manual, and a monograph entitled Being in the Midst: Performing Thinking in Action.


Emma's working studio is based at Exchange Place Studios (part of Yorkshire Artspace) in Sheffield - see http://artspace.org.uk/our-studios/