By Charlotte Roi
Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 04/17/2020- ‘To finish this ritual, I declare my resolution: To live and love fully and to commit all of my life fully,’ Kate Johnson was a hyphenate. An exemplar of the evolution of the new creative class of the 21st Century. An Emmy® Award winning filmmaker, as an artist she created internationally exhibited and critically acclaimed works in a variety of media and genres, exploring the nexus and logical synchronicities among art, anthropology, technology and social justice.
For Johnson, boundaries were illusions, invented to keep all the rich diversity of thought apart.
Johnson had the heart and soul of an artist combined with the mind and hands of an engineer. She wrote the film scripts and computer code for many of her projects: writing, directing, shooting, animating, editing, coding, and producing original video art works, which she often accompanied with her own original music and sound design compositions.
She was among the handful of women in the world who created and worked in large-scale site-specific digital projection, creating massive original projections that have graced iconic places such as the Getty Center, LA City Hall, West Hollywood Park, and Japan American Cultural Center. But never to forget her community, her projections were also compassionately presented in dance & music concerts and live theater. The content and social commentary of her work ranged from family-friendly to challenging, dependent of course on the intended audience. She saw each audience as unique, and actually part of the art experience itself, and designed her experiences for each of them in unique ways.
Every project Johnson created was a unique exploration into the zeitgeist and evolution of media as a means of trans-national communication. For Johnson, the more ways in which we learn to communicate, the better the prospect was for true understanding. Sometimes she wrote poetry; other times, she pushed the limits of the electronic arts.
This was her passion, to always explore and expand. She saw all creativity as a continuum, ranging seamlessly between the arts and sciences.
In 2015, the film Mia, A Dancer’s Journey received an LA Emmy® Award and a Golden Mic Award which Kate Johnson co-produced and co-directed with Maria Ramas. It had its world premiere at the Film Society at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, NYC, and was broadcast nationwide on numerous PBS stations, and broadcast in Germany and Croatia. “Mia” is the compelling story of an acclaimed dancer whose life personified the European diaspora of World War II as well as the subsequent immigration to the US of numerous artists, including the legendary Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, of which Mia was a member.
Perhaps her most ambitious work was 2015’s “Everywhere in Between”, commissioned by Santa Monica’s Cultural Affairs Division, through a grant from the NEA and facilitated by 18th Street Arts Center. Johnson transformed the unnoticed spaces between the galleries at Bergamot Station into a living, interactive art experience with her massive projections and light installations, including 3 IMAX projectors, several dance companies, 2 bands, and various other performance artists, poets and mimes.
In addition to her creative work, she has lectured on the role that art must play in world politics and security, at an elite, invitation-only conference attended by government and corporate officials, as well as speaking, including as keynote, at a variety of other major art and technology conferences including SIGGRAPH.
Last year, EZTV celebrated its 40th Anniversary, with four events staged at the Kandinsky Library, Centre Pompidou, Paris. Kate Johnson spoke and presented at two of the four events. In August 2020, three scholars/curators who produced these Pompidou events, will spend an entire month in Los Angeles studying in much greater detail, EZTV’s indispensably seminal, and immense, but still oft-overlooked contributions to LA’s media art history.
LEGACYFor 20 years, she was an artist-in-residence at the 18th Street Arts Center, where she has shepherded EZTV into its inevitable and long-overdue historification, in places as varied as UCLA, the Centre Pompidou, and USC, whose ONE Archives has acquired much of EZTV’s early works.
Kate Johnson was a proud creative citizen of Santa Monica, and equally proud citizen of the Otis College community. But first and foremost, she was the heart of EZTV, saving it from certain demise and nurturing it not only back into health, but onto a world stage reaping critical acclaim and artistic realization never achieved by its founders.
I had the honor to have known her personally through my work with Michael Masucci and I can’t find the right words to describe what an incredible and strong person she was. Her spirit was unbreakable and her honesty and vulnerability so admirable. She was a true artist and has left a remarkable legacy. She will be truly missed.