We had the good fortune of connecting with Josh Urban Davis and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Josh Urban, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
You have to make a choice when it comes to work/life balance: do you want to love your work, or do you value your personal time. When I was younger, I was convinced I needed a strict separation between work and life. Weekends were mine and no one else’s, I wouldn’t answer emails after 5pm, and I rarely socialized with people from work because I had my own personal circle. This division between my personal and professional life was sacred to me. I thought of myself as a working artist with a day-job, like all artists. Even the most successful artists I knew (and still true to this day) have day-jobs. Thus I worked during the day and made my drawings and creative work on the weekend. However, this division began to weigh heavily on me. I was sad and depressed at the office and dreaded getting up Monday through Friday. This culminated when I quit my day-job by going on tour with a performance art group I had been working with at the time without giving notice. On thursday afternoon I clocked out and left, never to return. This wasn’t indicative of character at the time, but more a testament to my misery in that position. Since then, my work has increasingly incorporated my creative interests. To call my current practice a “work/life” balance doesn’t really make sense anymore. It’s more of a work-life-blend. Hard to tell where my work ends and my personal life begins. My work schedule is significantly more demanding these days, but I deeply enjoy what I do. It works better for me. You really do have to make a choice. Do you want to work less, or do you want to love what you do? What worked for me, will certainly not be appropriate for everyone. This story is meant to simply illustrate the tradeoffs of these two options.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I work at the intersection of research science and design practice. My research concerns questions of how human beings interact with artificial intelligence and other automata systems. Often, my work concerns investigating how interactions between humans and AI can be more fluid, ethical, and accessible. One goal of this work is to alter the trajectory of AI and system development towards a more equitable future, even if that means ceasing the development of AI or other technologies in the process. Sometimes, technology is not the solution. My creative work similarly poses questions of how emerging technologies affect our daily experiences and culture. How machines alter and mitigate our understanding of identity, and what speculative futures reveal about our present moment. It is imperative to maintain a dialogue between the arts and the sciences, as one cannot develop independent of the other. The product of science is knowledges and technologies, while to product of art is culture and artifacts. To create knowledges and technologies without consideration for their impact on culture and humanity is to welcome atrocity. Both my research and creative work examine this relationship and from alternating vantages to better understand the problems of our time.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
My friends are nerds and beautiful weirdos. If this sounds like you, here is what you have to see in Houston: – Pack a picnic and hangout in Menil park. While you’re there, checkout the exhibitions at the main campus, drawing center, and Cy Twombly annex. – The Rothko chapel is a beautiful space and architectural landmark. Don’t go in as if it’s an art exhibit though. It’s a chapel. Go in. Meditate. Read a book. Do a tarot reading. It’s a holy site in it’s godlessness. I have a tattoo of the “Broken Obelisk” sculpture by Barnett Newmann out front – Contemporary Art Museum Houston (Also free) – Stop by Brazos Books and grab the latest in fiction, poetry, and other from a local independent bookshop focusing on emerging and local writers. – Grab drinks at 6s and 7s. Cool new space with a disco camping vibe. (not free. but wonderful) – If you’d rather hang with vampires than burning-man style psychonauts, head over to La Carafe. A historic landmark as well as beautiful old building. Bring cash – Stop over at Notsuoh’s while you’re over there and get weird
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There’s many people that helped shape my current practice, and I wouldn’t be the same without them. I was greatly shaped by the ideas of Douglas Hofstadter, the politics of Byung-Chul Han, and the life of Allen Turing. Of course, I am indebted to the generosity and viscously beautiful spirit of the Houston art community where I cut my teeth. This includes (but not limited to) D!verseWorks, The Poison Pen Reading Series, Contemporary Art Museum Houston, and the always grimy yet splendid Notsuohs.
their all my images so no additional credit is necessary