Emma Cocker

°1973
en

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, 2011; Drawing a Hypothesis: Figures of Thought, 2011; Hyperdrawing: Beyond the Lines of Contemporary Art, 2012; On Not Knowing: How Artists Think, 2013, Reading/Feeling, 2013, Cartographies of Exile, 2014; 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. She is currently a key researcher on the PEEK funded research project Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line, in collaboration with Nikolaus Gansterer and Mariella Greil. 

 


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Exposition: Silence Ensemble (07/03/2017) by Petri Kaverma et al.
Emma Cocker 26/11/2018 at 13:46

What are the ‘Conditions of Sharing’ involved in the publishing of reviewers’ comments? The thematic frame of this issue prompted me to reflect on what is at stake in the ‘making public’ and sharing of peer-review commentary. Whilst I support the principle of this ‘making public’ as a way of expanding the critical exposition of artistic research, there are still questions that remain for me in relation to what and also how this ‘feedback’ is shared.

 

Specifically, how is the difference between the critical but still formative peer-review feedback and commentary - offered to researchers to support the development of an exposition - and a public review which might instead operate more as a précis, evaluation and analysis of an exposition? Is this distinction to be made – between formative and summative, between private-supportive and public-evaluative - in the ‘making public’ of reviewers’ comments? To whom is the reviewer writing? How does the shift from private-formative to public-summative shift the mode of address?

 

Is the sharing of reviewers’ comments intended as the ‘making visible’ of the research process and the dialogue that often happens behind the scenes, or does it operate more akin to criticism – as a means of judgment?

 

Does the sharing of reviewer’s commentary - intended as constructive criticism towards the ‘making’ and development of a research exposition - undermine the ‘voice’ of the researchers, the decisions they have made in the final exposition of their own research? What is stake in the sharing of comments that ‘show up’ what the researchers chose to act upon alongside what they chose to ignore?

 

Is there risk that the reviewers’ précis and analysis eclipses the exposition itself - stands instead of – much as a ‘review’ in art-world terms is often the means by which the remote viewer comes into contact with an exhibition, the means by which the success and failure of the work is judged?

 

How does the reviewer avoid ventriloquizing another’s research process, speaking on their behalf, filling in the gaps? How much does one share? When is it best to remain silent?

 

The exposition’s focus on ‘silence’ also prompted me to reflect on the form of the invited commentary itself – textual, discursive; in fact, arguably the very modus operandi that this specific research exposition seeks to critique or seek an alternative to. How does the sharing of the review process add to and enrich an existing exposition? When does it simply create more discursive ‘noise’?

 

Whilst my inclination leans towards allowing the exposition to speak for itself (in its advocacy of silence), in the spirit of ‘sharing’ an edited version of my comments follow:

 

The exposition focuses on a collaborative project involving three individuals, from three different disciplinary backgrounds – dance, fine art and music. The prospect of an interdisciplinary project for exploring the conditions of silence between a dancer, musician and visual artist seems very rich. Over a series of months, the three researchers met together within a studio situation as a means for sharing praxis, a process which evolved into a ‘methodology of sharing’ based on three related phases of activity: silence, praxis, writing. The notion of silence is proposed as an overarching thematic for framing and focusing this period of exchange: how is it to share in silence? What does silence afford? Specifically, silence functions as a preparatory practice within this research project; a means for ‘clearing the ground’, or ‘tuning in’ prior to beginning the process of praxis-in-proximity. The practice of writing together in silence is also explored as a means of creating the conditions of solidarity, a sense of shared focus on a specific task. The idea of exploring silence as a ‘condition of sharing’ feels timely and intriguing: the exposition seems to offer the conditions of embodied, corporeal silence as an alternative too – even in critique of – the more instrumentalised modes of ‘sharing’ within the research cultures of academia (and its privileging of loudest argument, voicing one’s opinions, logos).

 

Whilst this exposition does not respond to the questions outlined in the call ‘Conditions of Sharing’ explicitly, it has the capacity to contribute much to debates around the sharing of research (specifically – what are the conditions of sharing produced in silence, and how might this operate as an alternative to conventional research pedagogy and practice). Still, there seems to be much that is not shared in this exposition – the focus is on describing rather than necessarily sharing the research process, which against the central argument of the enquiry, privileges textual explanation. How else could this research project have been shared via an exposition? How could the silence and the praxiscomponents of this project play a stronger role in the exposition? I would have welcomed an encounter with more of the research process – including through documentation, image, video, sound – rather than just being ‘told’ about itHow do I encounter the praxis? Given the interdisciplinary multimodal nature of this project – involving sound, visual as well as movement vocabularies – could this be better reflected within the exposition through other means of documentation alongside writing. Why does language – writing – form the central means through which the research experience is shared? Could elements from previous performative presentations be integrated into the exposition?Rather than describe the process – could it not be better shown: through what other means could the practice be exposed, translated, transformed, performed, curated etc. as research? Through what means other than textual description could the artistic practice or praxis component of this research project be communicated? In fact, this could also be extended to the experience of silence within the project. How could this be communicated other than (or additionally to) words? Whilst there is some attempt at a more poetic, evocative form of description, could the exposition benefit from the inclusion of other kinds of materials – images, video, sound/silence etc.? How might silence be explored visually, spatially, acoustically as part of the exposition?

 

The focus on silence as a ‘condition of sharing’: Interdisciplinary collaboration is now relatively commonplace however the potential distinctiveness of this research project lies in its focus on silence as a specific condition of sharing. Reflections on the critical affordances of silence weave (rather subtly, at times perhaps too quietly) through the exposition – including some comment on the relation between silence and not knowing and non-knowledge “silence means an orientation to something that cannot be known”; “Does this silence wipe off names and definitions with a white brush?” Silence is often associated with a solitary practice, yet this project addresses it as a shared practice, as a means of solidarity. The question of how silence foregrounds a sense of corporeality or of embodiment within the research process is also touched upon.

 

Silence as pre-condition for object-oriented approaches: whilst not overtly declared, a thread that runs through the exposition seems to be related to how silence affords a different relationship not only to fellow collaborators, but also to the space and to objects – how silence supports different modes of both human and non-human engagement, and also how space is organised to “make more space for silence to enter”. Again, while not stated, this seems to resonate with various debates around new materialism and philosophical writing around object oriented ontology, and a wider engagement with materials and objects within contemporary choreographic practice.

 

Silence as critique/resistance: a persistent undercurrent within the exposition relates to how silence offers a different way of working to the usual pressures and constraints of academia, where the emphasis is often on goals and achievements. Silence is proposed as a means of operating against efficiency, “an oasis away from haste and accomplishment”. The project asks: “Is it possible for this lived silence to spread to other circles of life, and not to stay only as a brief relief?”. Silence is conceived as part of a set of wider tactics – including stillness, ‘operating without a clear aim’ – through which the researcher might resist the pressure to do more and more, louder and louder. Whilst the differences between silence, stillness and ‘working without aim’ are not fully explored or put under pressure, there is still a contribution made to both artistic- and artistic research pedagogy in terms of rethinking the institution and its conventions of sharing.

 

What does open-ended interdisciplinary research enable?: Whilst not specifically related to the conditions of silence, the exposition does contain many moments of reflection on how interdisciplinary collaboration can both open up one’s practice to new experiences as well as shed light on or draw attention to those habitual patterns and conventions which structure how one works. It does offer some personal insights into the ethical aspect of collaboration: how to create conditions which are conducive for one’s own practice without destroying the conditions that are conducive for another, the sense of how silence supports a practice of care is touched upon.

 

What is the enquiry?: At times the focus on silence (as both subject and methodology) lapses – for example, at some point silence seems to be conceived as a purely preparatory practice – for attuning and clearing the mind – and in the end is actually let go of as a practice. Often, the notion of silence is eclipsed by a more general investigation about working within interdisciplinary collaboration, where silence simply becomes a means of attunement/reflection taking place before and after the praxis component. This seems a shame because I think that the strength of this project/exposition is its focus on silence, without which it risks becoming just another description of the early stages of interdisciplinary exchange. I think that the specificity of silence could have been put under more pressure – what is at stake within silence for each of the three practices; what does shared silence afford, what is the wider context for addressing the condition of silence?

 

This exposition focuses on the conditions of sharing within silence, which resonates with existing concerns of two researchers’ practice: silence of corporeality in dancing, the silence and disturbance of art. I wonder what was the motivation for this project: how did it arise; what is at stake in exploring this through an interdisciplinary approach, how is silence different and similar for these different practices, how is solitary silence different from shared silence?

 

What is the praxis investigating? From the description of the process, the research enquiry was underpinned by and progressed through artistic practice: the three researchers – from different disciplinary backgrounds – came together over a number of sessions during the period between January 2016 – May 2016 to share ways of working. It is evident from the session ‘score’ of Silence, Praxis, Writing, that artistic practice of some kind was undertaken as part of the research. Whilst the Silence (a preparatory practice, for attunement, arrival etc.) and the Writing (a reflective practice, for capturing the experience) practices have clearly designated functions, I wonder what was explored during the Praxis component and how? What is the praxis investigating? What/how/why are you doing? How did the praxis sessions explore silence? Is silence just a preparatory practice? How is silence experienced differently for each practice? One phrase struck me: “We need to make some noise to see behind the silence” – is this part of the function of praxis?If silence wasn’t being explored through the praxis, then what was? There are moments when the exposition drifts from its research-oriented direction (that is, its specific epistemological enquiry) to become rather more open-ended in general terms: “free to do anything we want”. Certain named approaches are involved in this research project for specific individuals: a phenomenological approach, auto-ethnographic method. More could be said about how these approaches are relevant for the theme of silence, what do they yield as methods? Could the exposition demonstrate more confidence in terms of artistic research itself?

What are the ‘Conditions of Sharing’ involved in the publishing of reviewers’ comments? The thematic frame of this issue prompted me to reflect on what is at stake in the ‘making public’ and sharing of peer-review commentary. Whilst I support the principle of this ‘making public’ as a way of expanding the critical exposition of artistic research, there are still questions that remain for me in relation to what and also how this ‘feedback’ is shared.

 

Specifically, how is the difference between the critical but still formative peer-review feedback and commentary - offered to researchers to support the development of an exposition - and a public review which might instead operate more as a précis, evaluation and analysis of an exposition? Is this distinction to be made – between formative and summative, between private-supportive and public-evaluative - in the ‘making public’ of reviewers’ comments? To whom is the reviewer writing? How does the shift from private-formative to public-summative shift the mode of address?

 

Is the sharing of reviewers’ comments intended as the ‘making visible’ of the research process and the dialogue that often happens behind the scenes, or does it operate more akin to criticism – as a means of judgment?

 

Does the sharing of reviewer’s commentary - intended as constructive criticism towards the ‘making’ and development of a research exposition - undermine the ‘voice’ of the researchers, the decisions they have made in the final exposition of their own research? What is stake in the sharing of comments that ‘show up’ what the researchers chose to act upon alongside what they chose to ignore?

 

Is there risk that the reviewers’ précis and analysis eclipses the exposition itself - stands instead of – much as a ‘review’ in art-world terms is often the means by which the remote viewer comes into contact with an exhibition, the means by which the success and failure of the work is judged?

 

How does the reviewer avoid ventriloquizing another’s research process, speaking on their behalf, filling in the gaps? How much does one share? When is it best to remain silent?

 

The exposition’s focus on ‘silence’ also prompted me to reflect on the form of the invited commentary itself – textual, discursive; in fact, arguably the very modus operandi that this specific research exposition seeks to critique or seek an alternative to. How does the sharing of the review process add to and enrich an existing exposition? When does it simply create more discursive ‘noise’?

 

Whilst my inclination leans towards allowing the exposition to speak for itself (in its advocacy of silence), in the spirit of ‘sharing’ an edited version of my comments follow:

 

The exposition focuses on a collaborative project involving three individuals, from three different disciplinary backgrounds – dance, fine art and music. The prospect of an interdisciplinary project for exploring the conditions of silence between a dancer, musician and visual artist seems very rich. Over a series of months, the three researchers met together within a studio situation as a means for sharing praxis, a process which evolved into a ‘methodology of sharing’ based on three related phases of activity: silence, praxis, writing. The notion of silence is proposed as an overarching thematic for framing and focusing this period of exchange: how is it to share in silence? What does silence afford? Specifically, silence functions as a preparatory practice within this research project; a means for ‘clearing the ground’, or ‘tuning in’ prior to beginning the process of praxis-in-proximity. The practice of writing together in silence is also explored as a means of creating the conditions of solidarity, a sense of shared focus on a specific task. The idea of exploring silence as a ‘condition of sharing’ feels timely and intriguing: the exposition seems to offer the conditions of embodied, corporeal silence as an alternative too – even in critique of – the more instrumentalised modes of ‘sharing’ within the research cultures of academia (and its privileging of loudest argument, voicing one’s opinions, logos).

 

Whilst this exposition does not respond to the questions outlined in the call ‘Conditions of Sharing’ explicitly, it has the capacity to contribute much to debates around the sharing of research (specifically – what are the conditions of sharing produced in silence, and how might this operate as an alternative to conventional research pedagogy and practice). Still, there seems to be much that is not shared in this exposition – the focus is on describing rather than necessarily sharing the research process, which against the central argument of the enquiry, privileges textual explanation. How else could this research project have been shared via an exposition? How could the silence and the praxis components of this project play a stronger role in the exposition? I would have welcomed an encounter with more of the research process – including through documentation, image, video, sound – rather than just being ‘told’ about it. How do I encounter the praxis? Given the interdisciplinary multimodal nature of this project – involving sound, visual as well as movement vocabularies – could this be better reflected within the exposition through other means of documentation alongside writing. Why does language – writing – form the central means through which the research experience is shared? Could elements from previous performative presentations be integrated into the exposition? Rather than describe the process – could it not be better shown: through what other means could the practice be exposed, translated, transformed, performed, curated etc. as research? Through what means other than textual description could the artistic practice or praxis component of this research project be communicated? In fact, this could also be extended to the experience of silence within the project. How could this be communicated other than (or additionally to) words? Whilst there is some attempt at a more poetic, evocative form of description, could the exposition benefit from the inclusion of other kinds of materials – images, video, sound/silence etc.? How might silence be explored visually, spatially, acoustically as part of the exposition?

 

The focus on silence as a ‘condition of sharing’: Interdisciplinary collaboration is now relatively commonplace however the potential distinctiveness of this research project lies in its focus on silence as a specific condition of sharing. Reflections on the critical affordances of silence weave (rather subtly, at times perhaps too quietly) through the exposition – including some comment on the relation between silence and not knowing and non-knowledge “silence means an orientation to something that cannot be known”; “Does this silence wipe off names and definitions with a white brush?” Silence is often associated with a solitary practice, yet this project addresses it as a shared practice, as a means of solidarity. The question of how silence foregrounds a sense of corporeality or of embodiment within the research process is also touched upon.

 

Silence as pre-condition for object-oriented approaches: whilst not overtly declared, a thread that runs through the exposition seems to be related to how silence affords a different relationship not only to fellow collaborators, but also to the space and to objects – how silence supports different modes of both human and non-human engagement, and also how space is organised to “make more space for silence to enter”. Again, while not stated, this seems to resonate with various debates around new materialism and philosophical writing around object oriented ontology, and a wider engagement with materials and objects within contemporary choreographic practice.

 

Silence as critique/resistance: a persistent undercurrent within the exposition relates to how silence offers a different way of working to the usual pressures and constraints of academia, where the emphasis is often on goals and achievements. Silence is proposed as a means of operating against efficiency, “an oasis away from haste and accomplishment”. The project asks: “Is it possible for this lived silence to spread to other circles of life, and not to stay only as a brief relief?”. Silence is conceived as part of a set of wider tactics – including stillness, ‘operating without a clear aim’ – through which the researcher might resist the pressure to do more and more, louder and louder. Whilst the differences between silence, stillness and ‘working without aim’ are not fully explored or put under pressure, there is still a contribution made to both artistic- and artistic research pedagogy in terms of rethinking the institution and its conventions of sharing.

 

What does open-ended interdisciplinary research enable?: Whilst not specifically related to the conditions of silence, the exposition does contain many moments of reflection on how interdisciplinary collaboration can both open up one’s practice to new experiences as well as shed light on or draw attention to those habitual patterns and conventions which structure how one works. It does offer some personal insights into the ethical aspect of collaboration: how to create conditions which are conducive for one’s own practice without destroying the conditions that are conducive for another, the sense of how silence supports a practice of care is touched upon.

 

What is the enquiry?: At times the focus on silence (as both subject and methodology) lapses – for example, at some point silence seems to be conceived as a purely preparatory practice – for attuning and clearing the mind – and in the end is actually let go of as a practice. Often, the notion of silence is eclipsed by a more general investigation about working within interdisciplinary collaboration, where silence simply becomes a means of attunement/reflection taking place before and after the praxis component. This seems a shame because I think that the strength of this project/exposition is its focus on silence, without which it risks becoming just another description of the early stages of interdisciplinary exchange. I think that the specificity of silence could have been put under more pressure – what is at stake within silence for each of the three practices; what does shared silence afford, what is the wider context for addressing the condition of silence?

 

This exposition focuses on the conditions of sharing within silence, which resonates with existing concerns of two researchers’ practice: silence of corporeality in dancing, the silence and disturbance of art. I wonder what was the motivation for this project: how did it arise; what is at stake in exploring this through an interdisciplinary approach, how is silence different and similar for these different practices, how is solitary silence different from shared silence?

 

What is the praxis investigating? From the description of the process, the research enquiry was underpinned by and progressed through artistic practice: the three researchers – from different disciplinary backgrounds – came together over a number of sessions during the period between January 2016 – May 2016 to share ways of working. It is evident from the session ‘score’ of Silence, Praxis, Writing, that artistic practice of some kind was undertaken as part of the research. Whilst the Silence (a preparatory practice, for attunement, arrival etc.) and the Writing (a reflective practice, for capturing the experience) practices have clearly designated functions, I wonder what was explored during the Praxis component and how? What is the praxis investigating? What/how/why are you doing? How did the praxis sessions explore silence? Is silence just a preparatory practice? How is silence experienced differently for each practice? One phrase struck me: “We need to make some noise to see behind the silence” – is this part of the function of praxis? If silence wasn’t being explored through the praxis, then what was? There are moments when the exposition drifts from its research-oriented direction (that is, its specific epistemological enquiry) to become rather more open-ended in general terms: “free to do anything we want”. Certain named approaches are involved in this research project for specific individuals: a phenomenological approach, auto-ethnographic method. More could be said about how these approaches are relevant for the theme of silence, what do they yield as methods? Could the exposition demonstrate more confidence in terms of artistic research itself?

 

 

 

 

 




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