Emma Cocker - in collaboration with Open City

<  Between 2007 - 2010, I worked in collaboration with Open City on a number of research projects, resulting in the production of a serialized creative prose text that unfolded over a number of postcards and which were distributed in the public realm as provocations for thought and action.


Open City is an interdisciplinary project involving artists Andrew Brown and Katie Doubleday, working in collaboration with other artists and writers including myself. It is an investigation-led project that attempts to draw attention to how behaviour in the public realm is organized and controlled – and to what effect – whilst simultaneously exploring how such ‘rules’ – even habits – might be negotiated differently through performance-based interventions. Open City’s projects often involve inviting, instructing or working with different individuals to create participatory performances in the public realm, discrete art works that put into question or destabilize habitual patterns and conventions of public behaviour. 


In 2007, I was invited by Open City to produce a piece of writing in response to their work for a series of publicly distributed postcards, and have since worked more collaboratively with the project on a phase of research investigating how the different temporalities within the public realm might be harnessed or activated creatively; how movement and mobility affect the way in which place and locality are encountered or understood. 

About the author

Emma Cocker is a writer, artist and Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at Nottingham Trent University. Operating under the title Not Yet There, her research unfolds as an interdisciplinary, hybridized enquiry that operates restlessly along the threshold of writing/art, involving performative, collaborative and creative prose approaches to writing about, parallel to and as art practice. 

 

Emma Cocker - in collaboration with Open City.

Between 2007 - 2010, I worked in collaboration with Open City, specifically on the production of a serialized text that unfolded over a number of postcards that were distributed in the public realm.


Open City is an interdisciplinary art project involving artists Andrew Brown and Katie Doubleday, working in collaboration with other artists and writers including myself. It is an investigation-led project that attempts to draw attention to how behaviour in the public realm is organized and controlled – and to what effect – whilst simultaneously exploring how such ‘rules’ – even habits – might be negotiated differently through performance-based interventions. Open City’s projects often involve inviting, instructing or working with different individuals to create participatory performances in the public realm, discrete art works that put into question or destabilize habitual patterns and conventions of public behaviour. 

< Phase 1: The first series of postcards (Cards 1 - 6) were commissioned in response to work produced by Open City as part of NottDance 2007.


I elaborate on this initial experience in an article entitled 'Pay Attention to the Footnotes', published in the Journal of Writing in Creative Practice. Drawing on my experience of working in collaboration with the project, Open City, in this article I reflect on how this close encounter with a performance practice has enabled a critical shift within my own approach, from a mode of writing about to one of writing in dialogue with or alongside performance. 


In this article, I reflect on how different forms of writing – specifically the postcard texts - have performed in response to the work of Open City, focusing in particular on the use of footnotes and the different concepts conjured by the word. Footnotes are one of the ways in which the different temporal possibilities of writing have been explored and exploited within the project, where they have been used as a creative and critical device for producing points of slowness and blockage within the act of reading, or as a form of performative invitation that encourages both textual and physical wandering by proposing tangents to be – both literally and literarily - followed.

 

 


 

<Performing InstructionsArt, Site, Language.

Increasingly I have become interested in how the meaning of the text might be changed or modified depending upon its siting. In 2009, re-contextualised the content of the cards as part of my involvement in Anti festival, Art, Site, Language.


I presented a paper on my collaboration with Open City which was subsequently developed as a journal article for Rhizomes, Hives, Tribes and Collectivities entitled, R.S.V.P - Choreographing Collectivity through invitation and response

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Performing Stillness: Community in Waiting

The concerns explored in Card 7 and Card 8 were elaborated as part of a journal article 'From Passivity to Potential: The Communitas of Stillness' which was subsequently developed as a chapter entitled, 'Performing Stillness: Community in Waiting', published in Stillness in a Mobile World, (eds.) David Bissell and Gillian Fuller (Routledge, 2010). 


Drawing on the experience of working in collaboration with the artist-led project, Open City, this chapter explores the potential of an active and resistant - rather than passive and acquiescent – form of stillness that can be activated strategically within a performance-based practice. I investigate the potential within forms of stillness specifically produced in and by contemporary capitalism, by reflecting on how they might be (re)inhabited as sites of critical action. With reference to the writing of Gilles Deleuze – especially in relation to Spinoza’s Ethics – the article explores how the asignifying or affective possibilities produced by the collective performance of stillness can be understood as a mode of playful resistance to or refusal of habitual social norms as well as additionally producing the germinal conditions for a nascent community of experience no longer bound by existing protocol, a model of “communitas” emerging from the shared act of being still.

 

About the publication

This edited collection of essays on the conceptual, political and philosophical importance of stillness is positioned within a world that has increasingly come to be understood through the theoretical and conceptual lens of movement. With contributions from leading scholars in the field, the diversity of this collection illuminates the multiplicity of ontological and epistemological registers through which stillness moves: from human geography to media studies, cultural theory to fine arts. With the help of luminaries such as Deleuze, Bergson, Barthes and Beckett, this book interweaves cutting-edge theoretical insight with empirical illustrations which examine and traverse a multitude of practices, spaces and events. In an era where stasis, slowness and passivity are often held to be detrimental, this collection puts forward a new set of political and ethical concerns which help us to come to terms with, understand, and account for (im)mobile life.

< Exploring new forms of site-specific stillness

My book chapter, Performing Stillness, was developed from a period of artistic action-research. In 2008, I undetook a ACE funded (Arts Council) research project (with Katie Doubleday, Open City) in Yokohama, Japan, entitled Interrogating New Methods for Public Participation in Site Specific Projects, that investigated the affective capacity of different speeds and intensities of individual pedestrian activity in the public realm.


Within this project, we explored how performed stillness and slowness could operate as tactics for rupturing or disrupting the homogenized flow of authorized and endorsed patterns of public behaviour. Through action-research workshops and instructions publicly distributed on two newly produced postcards (No.7 and No.8), Open City invited various individuals to take part in a series of choreographed participatory interventions – journeys, guided walks, assemblies – and the staging of collective actions that echoed the visual vocabulary of certain stilled social rituals such as memorials or protests.


Whilst in Yokohama, Katie and I participated and presented as part of the Dislocate festival symposium, Constructing Places, during which we staged a participatory workshop exploring the performance of collective stillness using ipod technology.