In the center of Micki Davis' studio stands a large office table covered with a plastic cloth, which functions a place for meetings, buffets or communal indoor picnics.
Many participatory projects rely on the magic of food, as a way of community building or entertainment. In Micki's projects it also functions as a storytelling device and a means in a slowly unfolding chain of events. There is no romanticizing of voluntary participation in her work; rather her strategy is to lure people into situations. She openly admits to bribing shopkeepers with home made $250 Cookies to provide Intel for We hate the sound of our voices, a project that was shown at Agitprop in December 2009. Compliant participants were asked to imagine background designs for video clips of people - equipped with plastic chickens and other props - enacting yet other people's memories induced by smells, which were previously gathered by Micki from her surroundings and cajoled from her peers. The ensuing narrative spans various spaces and locations ranging from cardboard box booth, makeshift television studio, neighborhood stores to self-organized art space. Needless to say that the $250 Cookies have come a long way themselves and entail a narrative of their own. Allegedly, a woman taking a coffee break at a Neiman Marcus store asked to buy the recipe for the oatmeal-chocolate cookies she ate there. A price was named and the business sealed. Only later, upon receiving her monthly credit card bill, the woman realized that she hadn't paid two dollar fifty for the recipe but two hundred fifty dollars, hence the cookies adapted name. After a series of phone calls, the recipe reached Micki faint and hardly legible, due to the age of the original and the low image resolution of the digital copy. It was sent via email by her mother, who may or may not know an acquaintance of said lady who first set the plot in motion. Over the course of the story the cookies are consumed and become subject of a business transaction, are shared between friends, nurtured in families and later fed back into the community as inducement to tell. This ongoing circuit of social interaction and economies of exchange is a recurring feature in Micki's work.
She frequently speaks of her role as an artist as a director who orchestrates events. But the language she uses to describe her projects - space of operation, tactical encounters, phases, data collection - also reminds me of intelligence jargon and makes me want to think of her as a special agent in matters of the everyday. Micki is always on the look out, gathering information on forms of communication and scouting strategically sound locations to stage small protest against, say, institutions that are public in name only and other things pretending to be what they are not, or, in her own words, unnecessary brainwashing in general.
Micki Davis' campaign addresses the curious public, friends and strangers, those who love and those who hate, at all times open to coincidences and in preparation for future events.
Intentional or unintentional encounters with public or private entities serve as starting points to capture the vernacular and distill memories, rumors and ways of speaking. Armed with collected stories, props and treats she facilitates casually choreographed maneuvers that employ slapstick and masquerade as magic mediums to escape predetermined situations. "I want my participants to see possibilities. I want them to see it so bad that I'm incredibly patient."
-- This text comes out of many conversations and in response to a diagram, in which Micki sketched out her practice.
Katrin Pesch, May 2010
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