[ISEA2013] Artist Statement: Michaela Davies – Compositions for Involuntary Strings

Artist Statement

Are the musicians in this string quartet playing – or being played? Their movements are controlled by custom-built electric muscle stimulation (EMS) devices which trigger strange, paroxysmal movements via electrical impulses, resulting in an other-worldly aesthetic. Inserting robotic elements into the highly formalised, traditional paradigm of a classical quartet exaggerates the man/machine interfacing that is central to most contemporary music creation, production and performance, highlighting our growing reliance upon machines to perform repetitive or difficult tasks that we used to do ourselves. The work questions assumptions about creative agency and free will both in and beyond the context of musical performance. By controlling performers’ limbs to execute complex rhythms and techniques which they would be unable to perform of their own volition, the work speaks to the ‘democratisation’ of music and art making with the advent of user-friendly technology. Imposing external control over physical agency, it also questions assumptions affirming the physical realm as an expression of an intentional inner self.

  • Michaela Davies maintains a multi-disciplinary art practice across installation, sculpture, sound, performance and video. Also a doctor of psychology, her work is informed by an interest in the role of psychological and physical agency in creative processes, and how obstruction can change the trajectory of development. Michaela’s recent work has used live percussion, sonified data and composed MIDI scores to control motor function in performers via electric muscle stimulation (EMS), with recent performances throughout Australia and also in New York. In addition to exploring sound in installation/ performance, Michaela plays bass guitar in numerous projects. Her musical collaborations and compositions are an eclectic mix of genres. michaeladavies.net