We had the good fortune of connecting with Kate Parsons and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kate, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
We started FLOAT to formalize the collaboration that my partner Ben and I started with our first VR project, Liminal Realities, back in 2015. We had been curated into a gallery show in Hollywood thanks to Sharsten Plenge of We Open Art Houses and were surprised at the impact it had.
We realized that we were creating something very unique, work that we never would have created on our own. We’ve been collaborating on art, various immersive projects and client work ever since.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
FLOAT seeks to create immersive experiences that tap into our collective feelings of awe and wonderment—That work is meant to inspire, re-awaken, and re-connect us to our senses, to ourselves. We are also opening an artist residency in Montana (http://www.stickneycreek.com) and my hope is that it will function as a space where artists and filmmakers can come to relax and have the space and time to work on personal projects. Currently we’re planning a program for June that involves wilderness survival training coupled with mindfulness and leadership training. FEMMEBIT, which you can learn more about at femmebit.art, seeks to give back to the creative community by showcasing video and new media work by LA-based artists. At my university, I’m working with the Sustainability department to create a collaborative lab focusing on art and ecology. It’s my hope that we can foster student work that examines our relationship to the natural world.
Our work is also often inherently risky. With FLOAT, we frequently use cutting edge technology—It’s an exciting new frontier of possibility. It’s challenging to understand, to distribute, and to show the work given the equipment isn’t easy to access. VR headsets and other devices aren’t mainstream yet, and there aren’t really any standards surrounding the technology or the experiences themselves.
I’ve also been working in the NFT space…NFT’s and the blockchain are another emerging area which feel complicated and require time to understand and fully process. It’s fascinating and controversial. As digital artists, we must grapple with what it means to participate…or not. Taking risks is always important–how else do you stretch your limits and discover what you’re truly capable of? All of this takes on additional weight in politicized environments where the truth is hard to ascertain.
We’ve been asked about our work-life balance many times: I was in my mid-twenties (I’m in my late 30’s now) when some of my current work habits began to really become entrenched. This included overcommitting and eventually losing all semblance of a personal life. I’d love to say that I’ve gotten better about it over the last few years, but I still very rarely take time off. I do not advocate that, though—and I’ve resolved to do better. When it comes to divvying up work time in order to create balance, I always think about the recommendations my professors at UCLA used to give. It was something to the effect of 40% client work (or salaried work), 30% personal work and 30% collaborative work. It should keep your professional processes fresh, but also give you time to build up your personal practices.
I have to advise my students on work/life balance, and I always feel so badly—I just keep telling them to do as I say, not as I do!
You also asked what makes me happy and my thoughts on success. For me, it’s when I see good people succeeding, doing well, and being appreciated for their talent and hard work. It makes me feel like there’s some order to the universe. Also when I see people support and care for one another, and any time I see people value vulnerability. The latter is actually quite risky and brave, and I like seeing that rewarded with love and care. And, of course, it makes me happy when I feel like I’m being supported and valued, myself.
Regarding success, my definition has changed throughout the years. It used to be about racking up accolades, getting into the right festivals and art fairs, and getting the right clients. Thankfully, I’ve chilled out about all of that. One thing that has remained true is an emphasis on community and the support of friends. If you are in a good place with your family and friends, if you’ve found your kin, you’re successful. With the recent loss of one of the people who supported me the most, I’ve found myself feeling adrift and unmoored. I’m taking stock of who and what my support network is, and expending less energy on relationships and goals that feel draining. I’ve spent a lot of time in partnerships that were actually quite harmful to me, with the idea that I should be generous to everyone. I still believe that you should be considerate and giving, but know that many people will try and take advantage of that. Don’t let them.
Follow the Golden Rule. Find ways to uplift those around you whenever and however you can. If you’re supporting others and you also feel supported, then you’re successful in life. It might not be a traditional metric of success, but it is truly how I feel.
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?
Los Angeles is such an incredible city. There’s so much to see and do, but I have to confess that most of my informal tours mostly revolve around food. First off, I would take them to El Sarape over in Boyle Heights, which has the best shrimp tacos in LA. We’d make sure to get both the soft and fried versions. We’d be sure to hit Sage, Gjusta, and the Rose Cafe, too. Another favorite downtown spot is Everson Royce, and we’d spend a fair bit of time in Koreatown for BBQ.
I also like to take people to the sculpture garden at UCLA, and Ben and I agree that the Griffith Observatory and the Museum of Jurassic Technology are must-sees. The Row has also become an interesting place to visit, especially when it’s Smorgasburg season and all the food trucks are there. I think the Cinerama Dome is fun, and I hope it re-opens…and we’d definitely spend some time in Hollywood. I like to visit cemeteries, so I might also take people to Hollywood Forever while we’re there. And maybe Forest Lawn, if they want to indulge me. If it’s a friend that appreciates art, stops might include LACMA, the Hammer, Honor Fraser, Anat Ebgi, Bridge Projects, Transfer Gallery, and And/Or gallery. There are so many fantastic places to see art in LA.
All of this, of course, was pre-pandemic. Worst-case scenario, a drive on Sunset is always a winner. Starting on Cesar Chavez and ending in Pacific Palisades is always a lot of fun for folks who aren’t familiar with LA.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would like to dedicate this to my friend Natalie Sun, who recommended me for the interview back in December. She passed away in January and gave tirelessly to the media arts community in Los Angeles, supporting artists whenever and however she could. She was one of my best friends and supporters, and the world will never be the same without her. I hope the folks who read this will take some time to look at her incredible work at https://nataliesun.art.
Photos by Babak Motamen, Ben Vance, Nicole Gawalis.