Maggie the Cat
Full Interview for Art Week: Capital Magazine 2020
LJ: Where are you from? Where have you lived so far?
NN: I’m from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In 2008, I moved to New Orleans then to Berlin. I’ve been in Berlin for 7 years now.
LJ: What is your artistic medium/mediums and why?
NN: I consider my work multi-disciplinary. My primary medium is movement/dance.
I began dancing at a very young age, but when I was 8 years old, I was not allowed to continue. I would eventually find ways around this restriction by dancing in church or school functions. I dabbled in other forms of creative expression, which always led me back to dance/movement. I realize now that dance is a vehicle. It is a language we all share and speak. It is something that I was fortunate to witness, share, experience and express before I can even remember. Even when I was not allowed to dance, it was still an ever present entity, communicator, happening around me whether at home, church, in public spaces or in my imagination. Movement is language without words that allows place for knowledge and inquiry. It is a place where I can free my imagination of strict understandings of images or words and connect to a whole human experience as my body is the vehicle and creator.
I also work with video and music; song-writing in particular, poetry and prose; which I often incorporate into my performances. Most recently, I’ve started incorporating digital video collaging in my work and personal artistic medium. It’s as if I’m creating a dance or choreography through a collection of moving and still images which gives room for the surreal, abstract, room for flexibility and critique.
LJ: If you studied, what and where did you study?
NN: In 2 1/2 years I jumped around 3 New Orleans universities; Loyola, Tulane and University of New Orleans. I studied Fine Arts and Dance for 2 years and film for half a year at UNO. I’ve found that I’ve grown most outside of the classroom and have recently seen myself as more autodidactic though the brief ‘formal’ education I had helped inform and expose me to both visual and performance arts.
LJ: How would you describe your artistic language?
NN: My artistic language varies. It is often somewhat intimate, personal and vulnerable. I try to erase the boundaries between me and the audience and create a space to see the I in you and vice versa. My language is often informed by culture, life experiences/circumstances and identity. It addresses my inherent political body and political arena of being on stage. It can be unsettling, inspiring, empowering and interrogating.
LJ: What does your working process look like?
NN: I work a lot with improvisation and instant composition. It’s important to have space to move how I feel in that very moment; not necessarily how I felt when creating it. I try to use movement as a vehicle to connect to my ancestors and sub/un-consciousness. When I’m creating, I’m looking for patterns and connections while also trying to abandon my own patterns, habits or comfort zones. My movement vocabulary is not limited to classical or western techniques, so in my processes I’m looking for intersections between various forms both technically and culturally. I can start by working with a clear focal point or without and from there continue building, destroying, creating, diverging and creating concepts and techniques to reach my idea.
LJ: Where do you find inspiration?
NN: Inspiration can be found in a million ways/places. I usually find inspiration in text or spoken word from reading, writing or listening. I find it in music, in people and situations. Not to sound like a cliche but I’m seeing dance/movement everywhere constantly; whether it be from the way collective bodies wobble and sway on the trains to how we organize/navigate busy intersections or how we move in daily routines like cleaning or sleeping to the hands and faces that express more than the words coming out of their mouths.
My family, culture, upbringing and ancestry all inspire and inform my work/artistic process. My environment, dreams, meditation, long walks or cycles to think unconstrained often lead to inspiration as well.
LJ: Which topics are interesting for you in order to make your artworks?
NN: Im often looking at the myriad of socio-cultural issues especially my experiences as a Black American woman living abroad. Art as a means of activism. I’m interested in the provocative, vulnerable, interrogatory, intimate, sometimes uncomfortable; in futurism, ritual and ancestral connections known and unknown. Like many people, I have a million interests and intrigues. I’m realizing how my interests in nature, fashion, food or anything for that matter indirectly link and inform each other.
LJ: What is your most recent project?
NN: My most recent project is New Growth; my first full-length solo performance. Here I explored the world of hair; in particularly Black hair using a mixture of improvisation and instant composition. I got to merge my working mediums of video collage, song-writing (rap) and movement to investigate notions of hair, what it means and what it can be. This was a very important piece for me because I was in a place to begin to think of my work outside of the white gaze/without “whiteness” at its center. Unlike previous work, I took a less didactic or educational approach and gave room for the re-imaginings of hair for Black people.
LJ: What do you want to explore in the future/what are your future projects?
NN: In the future, I want to continue to make work that de-centers whiteness. I want to make work that doesn’t rely upon imperialism, white supremacy or hetero-patriarchy to exist. I want to create spaces that have no boundaries other than my own imaginations; as well continue articulating my various disciplines (dance, music, visuals). I want to interrogate notions of what dance is/can be; as well as its hierarchies and historical contexts.
This year I received funding from HKF to direct/choreograph my first funded dance piece with 5-6 other dancers. On this particular project, I will be working around the topic of mothering and what that looks like in/outside its ‘known’ characteristics.