Emma Cocker

Emma Cocker’s research attends to the process of unfolding decision-making, the navigation of competing forces, the activity of working with/through obstacles to ‘figure’ something out, asserting value for this habitually unseen, undisclosed or often unsharable aspect of an artist’s/writer’s practice. Her interest is in forms of practice where the content is not known or pre-determined in advance, but rather emerges live or synchronous to the experience that it seeks to articulate. Cocker is concerned with prolonging, emphasising and honouring this space of indeterminacy by investigating the potentiality of a form of ‘thinking’ that precedes and indeed might be different to ‘knowledge’.

‘Tactics for Not Knowing: Preparing for the Unexpected’

In this essay Emma Cocker addresses ‘tactics’ through which artists actively court the ‘unknown’ within practice as a site of desirable indeterminacy within which to work.


The value of not knowing can be recognised, less as the preliminary state (of ignorance) preceding knowledge, but rather as a field of desirable indeterminacy within which to work. Not knowing is an active space wherein one might hope for an encounter with something new or unfamiliar, unrecognisable or unknown. However, the possibility of producing something new is not always about the conversion of the not known towards new knowledge, but rather an aspiration to retain something of the unknown within what is produced, willing it to remain. In these terms, the new is that which exceeds existing knowledge, not by extending its limits but by failing to be fully comprehended within its terms. Paradoxically, perhaps, certain practices might toil towards making something less rather than more known, actively moving towards rather than away from the experience of not knowing. Whilst not knowing plays a generative role in much creative activity, for some it is actively sought and courted at the heart of the work itself. Rather than waiting for the auspicious moment of not knowing to arrive, an artist might actively seek tactics for producing the conditions of uncertainty, disorientation or indeterminacy. Theirs is a practice that sets out in search of the capricious wind or current that will send them sideways or disturb their even keel, for it is in such moments of crisis that new ideas often emerge.

from On Not Knowing: How Artists Think, (eds.) Elizabeth Fisher and Rebecca Fortnum (London: Black Dog Publishing), 2013.

Read the complete essay here Tactics for Not Knowing.

The Italic I

The Italic I is a collaboration between writer-artist Emma Cocker and interdisciplinary artist Clare Thornton, for exploring the different states of potential made possible through surrendering to the event of a repeated fall. This shared investigation explores states of ‘not knowing’ within the creative process, focusing on the act of collaboration itself as a site of desirable negotiation.

To find out more click here.