#culture / #art & design
The Future is Female: Kate March
By: Sarah Engstrand
May 8, 2017
Entrepreneurial performance artist Kate March returns to her former home once again for the re-launch of her celebrated play, Love Pings. Ahead of its reprisal, #legend spoke with March about her inspirations and her works. As founder and creative director of the all-female I AM, an international creative collective, she inspires and pushes boundaries across multiple continents with immersive and interactive experiences. Combining art, dance, fashion and music, her work challenges and provokes audiences to consider the subject at hand in a new light.
What is I AM, and when did you first create it?
I AM is hard to describe in words, but it’s a powerful all female collective that is going global. I think it was always inside of me waiting to be born and grow, because I look back to artist statements I made in my early 20s and I was describing I AM. It happened organically.
Why did you decide to make it an all-female production company?
I work with men and women and believe that every individual has something to offer. However, as a woman, I have personally experienced and continue to experience sexism and gender discrimination in both the business and the arts worlds — and it’s daunting and frustrating. I decided when I started I AM that I needed to make it my mission to empower women’s creative voices and demonstrate the power of expression. I want girls and other women to see that when women support each other — and when the world supports men AND women equally — everyone benefits. I feel that if you don’t see it, you can’t be it. I want girls and women to feel confident in starting a business or pursuing creative expression fearlessly by witnessing their peers and female mentors attaining success in such endeavours. Too often female ambition is considered dangerous rather than natural and I want to do my best to ensure that that stereotyped way of thinking is smashed.
Is it unusual to have an all-female cast?
In the media, film, and performance spheres, I think it is unusual to have women consistently cast in roles that are perceived as unabashedly powerful, empowering, and strong.
What kind of projects do you do through I AM?
I would say our focus is on unconventional spaces and contexts for performance, so our projects are quite unpredictable and unexpected. Generally, we work in the realms of fashion, visual arts, food, and dining — no matter what, live performance and interacting with the audience are the foundations of our projects.
I AM seems to have a strong culinary focus, how did that evolve?
Basically, it started with my Masters thesis project, which was an exploration of the position on all fours. I started conceptualising different perceptions of body positions for a female body, and one way of seeing the position on all fours is to view it as a table. I distinctly remember thinking what if I put a ‘table’, a woman on all fours, on a table, and that’s the stage. After the first showing, where we incorporated food and drink with the performance, I realised I could open an audience to more experimental performance work by using a familiar format, like dinner. But I also realised that I was also dealing with complex layers of body politics, power dynamics, and breaking boundaries between artist and audience. I fell in love with that and began working more closely with chefs to develop menus that further developed whatever theme we chose to delve into – it just all evolved to be an intimate part of the way I think about connecting people through all their senses.
How has your concept evolved over the years?
I think the main way I AM has evolved is that it started as ‘my concept’ and now it’s become ‘our concept’. It began as a one woman show and now it is truly a team of visionary and inspiring individuals who each contribute in such special ways. The core ideals of artistic integrity, thinking outside of the box, and taking creative risks will always be the foundation and I think now the voices of the team will continue to shape the direction of I AM — super exciting.
What is the role of an artist in 2017?
The role of the artist is undeniably to express. Through that expression, there is sharing which can tap into emotions, perspectives or thoughts that may have otherwise not have been reached. But it’s hard to say that all artists have the same role — artists work through different media and each medium has a special role. I feel so passionately about live art and performance and I think it’s incredibly priceless in 2017 to experience something in the flesh. I really believe in the power of physical presence and I don’t think anything can replace having an exchange with a performance artist. To share time, space, and a moment with someone is fleeting, and to give someone time, space, and presence is a true gift. It’s intangible, palpable, and raw — that’s what I consider as my role as a performance artist and it’s why I believe what I do is so important in an increasingly virtual, remote, and tech-heavy world.
What effect do you hope your company has on the general community?
We want to empower people to be creative and to engage with their own imaginations. I want people to see the value of performance and the way physical presence and live art can ignite dialogues. We want people to feel something and engage in their passions. Simply put, we want to inspire people in whatever way they need to be inspired.
As a performer, do you feel a sense of social obligation or responsibility to the community?
I guess I see it in a broader scope. I feel, as I’m sure many of my team members do, that I have been lucky enough to discover my passion and life’s purpose, so I am obliged to share if for as long as I’m physically able. It’s a blessing to find you can express yourself through art and performance, and for me, it’s an even bigger blessing to be able to make a living as an artist and performer. I don’t take it lightly. I am compelled to share as much of myself and my creativity as possible to hopefully ignite a flame of passions in others.
What’s next for you? Any big projects coming up?
I AM is expanding globally at the moment with projects in the Maldives, Singapore, Australia, and the US. It’s all so exciting for me to see this baby grow and change and develop and become independent – so that’s the big project in and of itself. I just moved my base to NYC and we have been fortunate enough to start the year here with so many great immersive dinner projects. Those are my favourite projects since they are where I AM really began to carve its niche.
How do you feel about the concept of, ‘the future is female’? What does it mean to you?
I like the sentiment of course! I would love it to be the future is everyone – how nice it would be to live in a progressive society where we dynamically embraced and embodied gender equality.
Who are the women that have inspired you throughout your life?
My mother has always unapologetically shared a strong feminist perspective and voice which grounded me in thinking I can be whomever I wanted to be and do whatever I wanted to do and achieve whatever I wanted to achieve. She most certainly inspires me first and foremost. In fact, most women in my family are and were strong leaders, conveying to me that my dreams were always attainable. I’ve also been graced with so many great teachers, friends, and colleagues along this journey who have offered such deep support, wisdom, and encouragement. There’s nothing like someone else helping you to believe in yourself. It’s what allowed me to take risks and embrace unknowns.
Do you rely on a female network? If so, how?
Of course. I rely on strong and genuine relationships with women in a professional and personal sense — not to say that my network is all women, I receive an incredible amount of support, guidance and wisdom from men. You know, sometimes there are simply just some specific challenges, scenarios or glass ceilings that other women may relate to in a different way than a male counterpart. For me, sharing these experiences with women who can intimately relate to whatever I need some mentorship or perspective on can be a source of connection, understanding, and dialogue, which help me feel empowered and stronger. I think that particular kind of connection is especially useful when one is trying to carve a new path into uncharted and often intimidating territories.
Answers have been edited for length and clarity