Briefly describe the work you do.
My creative practice spans sound, performance, installation and video. My recent work has used electric muscle stimulation and other methods to bypass conditioned responses in order to both obstruct and extend human capabilities and musical possibilities in composition and improvisation.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
My work as an artist is informed by an interest in the role of psychological and physical agency both in and beyond the context of musical performance. I have a doctorate in psychology and my interest in human behaviour has a strong influence on my work, particularly ideas about free will, moral responsibility, and how people negotiate various obstructions. I also play bass guitar in various projects, and I am interested in questions regarding creative agency in the creation of music. I use electric muscle stimulation in a musical context to both extend and obstruct human capabilities in performance, and to create works which literalize certain aspects of musical performance where musicians become conduits or transcribers of a creation that is not their own.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
My studio is in my home, or rather, I sleep in my studio, which is great because I’m a workaholic, but bad because I never really have any down time.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
When I first started making art I never envisioned myself playing the role of “artist”. I still don’t. I just like making things. (I also never envisioned doing so much admin, or filling out so many application forms).
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
There is no best time of day, but there are better or worse days. I struggle through the days when I’m unmotivated, and work manically at times when I’m feeling inspired and focussed.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
In the past five years it has become more important to me that my work clearly reflects my philosophy, but I also aim to make work that doesn’t take itself to seriously. My work has always had an absurd element to it and if I can make people laugh, while inspiring reflection on some ideas that are meaningful to me, then that is a good thing.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
My work is heavily influenced by philosophers (particularly in the field of psychology), other artists from various fields, and discussions with friends. I don’t really believe there is such a thing as an original idea- just interesting combinations of ideas that already exist in the world- so the more ideas I can expose myself to, the greater the chance of any interesting combination occurring.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
I also work as a practicing psychologist and musician, but I don’t see these as entirely separate pursuits- just different ways of expressing the same ideas.
Michaela Davies’ cross-disciplinary practice is informed by an interest in the role of agency both in and beyond the context of musical performance. Her recent work has used electric muscle stimulation and other methods to obstruct and extend human capabilities in performance. She has presented work internationally and throughout Australia including Museum of Contemporary Art (Australia), Institute for Cultural Enquiry (Berlin), Experimental Intermedia (New York), ISEA (Sydney), Mona Foma Festival (Hobart), and at Sonica festival (UK) where she was 2013 Artist in Residence. Michaela holds a Doctorate in Psychology from the University of Sydney. In 2014 Michaela was awarded a Creative Australia Fellowship from the Australia Council for the Arts, and received an Honorary Mention at Prix Ars Electronica 2015 for Digital Musics & Sound Art. In addition to exploring sound in installation & performance, Michaela plays electric bass in numerous projects.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.