Emma Cocker is a writer-artist based in Sheffield and Associate Professor in Fine Art at Nottingham Trent University. Operating under the title Not Yet There, Cocker's research enquiry focuses on the process of artistic endeavour, alongside models of (art) practice and subjectivity that resist the pressure of a single, stable position by remaining wilfully unresolved. Her mode of working unfolds restlessly along the threshold between writing/art, including experimental, performative and collaborative approaches to producing texts parallel to and as art practice. Cocker's recent 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 (Affect), 2013; On Not Knowing: How Artists Think, 2013; Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line, 2017; The Creative Critic: Writing as/about Practice, and as a solo collection entitled The Yes of the No, 2016.

Exhibition: Documents, Alternatives

Documents, Alternatives
18 January  – 24 February 2018

Angela Bartram, Andrew Bracey, David Brazier and Kelda Free, Luce Choules, Emma Cocker and Clare Thornton, Kate Corder, Steve Dutton, Tim Etchells, Rochelle Haley, Morrad + McArthur, Andrew Pepper, and Louise K. Wilson
Curated by Angela Bartram

Documents, Alternatives is a (re-)staging of ephemeral artworks that is in ‘motion’ and responsive to intent. The exhibition foregrounds fluidity and diversity of translation and includes multiple art voices and modes of output including video, holography, text, painting, print and sound. This is an experimental, discursive strategy whereby the document becomes a new artwork and the artwork becomes a new document to keep the ephemeral evolving and in transition.

Publication and exhibition: Materials of Resistance


My text ‘One Versed in the Alchemy of What If’ has been published in the exhibition catalogue accompanying Materials of Resistance by Clare Thornton at Plymouth Arts Centre. Exploring recurring themes and issues within Thornton’s work, the catalogue comprises contextual and experimental texts by writers/artists Phil Owen, Emma Cocker, Conor Wilson, Heike Roms and Natalie Raven. Designed by Jono Lewarne at City Edition Studio. An edition of 400 at £15 available here.

A monitor-based version of The Italic I (a body of work developed in collaboration with Clare Thornton) was also staged as part of Materials of Resistance. A review of the exhibition can be read here.

Publication: Improvisational Creativity

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

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.