Emma Cocker: Conversation-as-material

Conversation-as-material is an artistic research practice that I have developed over the last decade within a series of collaborations including: (1) Re— (with Rachel Lois Clapham, 2009-2012), (2) The Italic I (with Clare Thornton, 2012-2018); (3) Choreographic Figures (with Nikolaus Gansterer and Mariella Greil, 2014-2019). Within the practice of conversation-as-material, conversation is conceived less as a means for talking about practice, but rather as an aesthetic practice in-and-of itself, site and material for the construction of immanent, inter-subjective modes of verbal-linguistic sense-making emerging through different voices enmeshed in live exchange. Conversation-as-material is a language-based practice that is attentive to, whilst attempting to make tangible, the live(d) experience of aesthetic co-creation. The practice involves an attempt to find a vocabulary for speaking with, through and from the experience of practising, where linguistic content is not already known in advance, but rather emerges in and through a collaborative working-with of language. The rhythm of conversation can produce a different texture of textual articulation to conventional writing. The cadence of conversation — its pitch and intonation, the tempo of speech — can often be of rising and falling, dipping and peaking. Conversation — from con- meaning ‘with, together’, and versare, ‘to turn, bend’. Conversation-as-material is a practice of collaborative writing-with that unfolds through different voices ‘turning about’ together. It involves the quest for a not-yet-known vocabulary generated synchronously to the live circumstances that it seeks to articulate — an infra-personal poetics co-produced through the dialogic process itself, revealed only in retrospect once recorded conversation has been transcribed, then distilled into a dense poetic form.


Emma Cocker is a writer-artist and Associate Professor in Fine Art. Her research unfolds restlessly along the threshold between writing/art, including experimental, performative and collaborative approaches. Cocker was co-researcher on the research project Choreo-graphic Figures (2014–2017); a contributing artistic researcher in Ecologies of Practice, Research Pavilion, Venice, 2019; and is co-founder of Society of Artistic Research Special Interest Group on Language-based Artistic Research.