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Plague and Locusts 2020. September-October. Katherine Sweetman.

Updated: Oct 24, 2020

Answering our questions, Katherine Sweetman shares her thoughts on current creative climate, her inspirations and plans, and showing her work that she submitted to Ephemereye Plague and Locusts 2020 virtual show.

Weird, Katherine Sweetman. 2020.

A little about me: Today, I tend to classify myself as an artist, content creator, and/or documentary filmmaker. About a decade ago I was on some kind of academic-intellectual track, but I was distracted by my passion for pop culture and mainstream media creation. I veered in that direction and ended up in Los Angeles. Where I still reside with my partner and our newly acquired pandemic-pet, a stray cat named FuzzMerelda. She’s critiquing me this very moment watching me suspiciously from her place in the closet.

FuzzMerelda, the cat.

My last, big documentary project is about a bipolar woman from Los Angeles who ran away to join the circus in Vietnam. Through her daring, dangerous, high-flying, aerial performance, she has healed herself of the need to do self-harm… and has stopped attempting suicide. (

The film is in its festival run now, which is challenging since all US festivals are now online. If they were in person, I’d be traveling around, networking, hopefully making connections and maybe getting attached to similar kinds of projects.

High Flying Jade, Film Poster

I have started a new, remotely-filmed (via Zoom) documentary project called, “Take COVID Seriously” ( where I interview survivors, frontline workers, and those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19. I’m collecting these important stories and creating short-format campaign-ads that I am putting on social media as advertisements in areas that are having spikes in COVID-19.

To keep my mind occupied, in my other free time, I make video art projects like the “Weird” short film/animation included in this exhibition.

All aforementioned projects are my passion projects — my obsessions and the things I’m driven to do even though they cost me money. My occupations ($) are in commercial content creation and teaching media production (read: struggling artist working as a freelance director, editor, teacher). I have an MFA in Visual Arts from The University of California, San Diego (2008) and an MFA in TV and Film Production from The University of Southern California, Los Angeles (2018). The cat is completely unimpressed by my advanced degrees. She sees me clean her littler box, meows approvingly, and is keenly aware that she’s the smartest one in the house.

My work and life had definitely changed due to the pandemic. Travel-documentary-filmmaking is the kind of work I would really want to be doing (sans COVID). The pandemic put a roadblock on that front, and although a lot of people are traveling now and making films again, we are staying VERY serious and vigilant. We are still living life in a lock-down mindset.

My Take COVID Seriously interview project has solidified this attitude. I just got off the phone with a woman who lost her mother and father to COVID-19. She gave it to them. They died alone, separately, in different hospitals, days from each other. She watched remotely from her own hospital room – when she could and when any overworked nurse was able to get the FaceTime calls between them figured out. She wants to tell her story and help spread this message: TAKE COVID SERIOUSLY and DON’T KILL YOUR PARENTS.

I’m pretty horrified that so many people I know are so cavalier about the pandemic. Even liberal, educated, smart people are out doing things that I feel are irresponsible... My cat, for example, seems completely oblivious to the pandemic. She wants to be out socializing so badly that she sometimes just sits at the window and meows. She doesn’t listen to our warnings AT ALL, and she’s already given birth to one litter of kittens during this pandemic (before we adopted her). She’s trying to populate all of mid-town Los Angles with little tiger-striped, pandemic-cats. At the beginning of the pandemic, I was in a constant state of panic. Everything was surreal. I lost my longest-running job, my 70+ year-old parents were doing crazy things like traveling, the news was horrifying, this “President” was insane. I had to take lots of baths and cover myself with weighted blankets and cry. Yay 2020! At this point, the insanity has somehow normalized. I have some new and interesting paid jobs -- directing remotely via iPhones and teaching. I certainly like sleeping in and hanging with FuzzMerelda -- when she will let me. It's been a bizarre and terrifying but welcomed break from my previous life.

I don’t know if the pandemic has changed my tempo and concentration that much… I’d like to think I have my concentration back… wait is there a new series on Netflix? What time is it? Should order some stuff on Amazon? Did Trump seriously do that? Time to go on a walk? Where’s the cat? I'd say the tempo is all over the map. Making work today is therapeutic. I, now, more than ever really enjoy working hard for concentrated periods of time. 12+ hours a day on projects for about a week at a time is something I really enjoy -- for some reason. Obsession followed by boredom. When I am between projects, I feel a bit more lost than pre-pandemic times. 

I don’t know if artists are more resilient than others during these times. Myself, I work gig-to-gig, so this whole things hasn’t been that terribly different from my normal life. It’s maybe solidified that I can’t have a normal life. I took a monotonous, 9-6 gig at an office for about 6 weeks in Dec/Jan. I hated every single second of every single day. I came home too tired to work on anything. I hated the commute. I hated my life. I’d rather work 17 hours a day from home or 17 hours a day on a remote film set than be in an office. I would probably rather work at McDonald's than an office ever again. Which... is not outside of the realm of possibilities I suppose... My 401K is 404.

I am, of course, terrified that so much government funding for arts is being cut/will continue to be cut. We need artists to make-sense-of/critique the world and to show us parts of humanity that are becoming lost. Beauty, reflection, empathy, contemplation, and community are things that artists help create and things that I miss in this isolation. At the same time, I am hopeful because I know that when we can, we’ll get back out there and buy art, attend events, go to those concerts, and see those films. My hope is that we can pick up where we left off and then DO MORE for artists. We need to DO MORE to support the creatives who have suffered and continue to suffer. I'm trying to support my artist friends at this time, by buying their works and making posts of their products. I wish I could do more. 

I know one thing for sure and that is that the work being made now, all over the world and in this solitary confinement, it will be extraordinary. People are experiencing all the right kinds of pressure to create works that will change the world, and I can't wait to see this world changed. 

I think the pandemic will probably alter the world forever. At least in small ways. Online events and onilne work are probably here to stay -- in some capacity. I hope we as a global community won’t stay stuck in our bubbles too much though. I know I have my around-the-world trip planned – for after that vaccine drops. Hawaii, Japan, China, Russia, Norway, Egypt, New York, I’m coming for you. Even if I have to put it on credit cards, even if still have to be wearing a mask, even if I have FuzzMerelda on my shoulder, I’ll be out there, looking for good art.


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