The New York-based multi-hyphenate Mafalda Millies talks about creative expression across all genres.
A creative mind is rarely bound to just one medium of expression. In a world where art disciplines overlap and merge and cultural production adapts strategies of commercial production and vice versa, the multi-faceted film and art director Mafalda Millies draws from the synergies around her to create beautiful works of art that transcend genres and formats. The native German studied in Paris, Berlin and Austin, Texas before relocating to New York City where she is now the creative director of C3 Management, a music management company with clients including the likes of NAS, Future, The Strokes and MSMR. Millies’ most recent music video for the latter earned the band and her multiple awards at renowned international music video festivals. Besides her work for C3 and their clients, Millies also co-founded the creative collective Starecase and art directed the contemporary performance piece “Virtually There” in collaboration with curator Roya Sachs in 2016. During one of New York’s infamous blizzards we met her at her private home to learn more about the creative chameleon. Luckily, Millies was not discouraged by freezing temperatures and snow and so we ventured out to discover her neighbourhood in a CLA 250 and talk about her work in the creative industries.
CLA 250: Fuel consumption combined: 6.6–6.4 l/100 km; combined CO₂ emissions: 153–148 g/km.*
How did your multidisciplinary skill set evolve in regards to being a creative director, art and film director now delving into art direction in performing arts?
In order to understand the different shapes and dimensions a production can take as a whole, I believe it is important to have a certain degree of technical knowledge of all the different departments involved. To this end I constantly push myself to learn more about each individual discipline and their media. This ranges from learning more about the technicalities involved in light-, costume- & stage design, to becoming more proficient in the different programmes involved in postproduction. Having recently entered the world of performance has introduced me to an entirely new range of media to uncover. Preparing a performance for a live audience comes with an entirely new set of challenges, which I am incredibly excited to be exploring.
How did working in film prepare you to work on a ballet or theatre performance?
In the early stages of a production each individual department usually operates somewhat isolated until very close to the actual show or shoot. To this end, my work in film prepared me for the challenges of having to visualize and anticipate the ways in which each element of preproduction will come together at the very end – with changes happening right up until the last minute.
Your work and creative approach seem to reflect the German principle of “Gesamtkunstwerk”—is this holistic approach to art an essential part of your process and creative aspirations? If so, why?
The concept of a “Gesamt(kunst)werk” is definitely apparent in both the outlining structure and conception of my work. Structurally, my projects usually involve a set of different collaborators that all create work that culminates in a collective whole – in which one component is never truly complete without the others.
Artistically, I’m drawn to the ability to bring together a range of diverse artists to create something universally encompassing, emotionally unpredictable and thought-provoking. It allows for a new type of collective interpretation of an idea or theme, which I feel particularly attracted to. I believe that it is these “shared instincts” that make a production truly immersive and impactful.
The videos you have directed and produced as well as your latest ballet project “Virtually There” seem to all explore darker aspects of human culture or perhaps inconsistencies that lead viewers to a more multifaceted view of humanity. What initially draws you to your creative subjects?
What generally draws me to a subject is the desire to understand it better, to unravel it and reinterpret it in my own way. At the same time, I tend to shy away from making strong statements of my own. Instead, I prefer the idea of inviting people on a visual journey that moves them to reflect further upon the theme on their own.
In this vein, “Virtually There” was not intended as a critique of human nature and evolution, but rather hopes to illuminate society’s current dependence on digital technology. The ballet was inspired by Oskar Schlemmer’s “Triadic Ballet” from 1922 which in turn explored the impact that machine culture and the industrial revolution were having on society at the turn of the century.
I find myself preoccupied and returning to subjects involving the impact of technological advancements and emerging social media on ideas of identity, community, isolation, and escapism. I am interested in the ways in which our understanding of “self” and society has evolved in recent years. Perhaps because it scares me …
In what ways does your personal space reflect your professional and creative sensibilities?
Entirely! There is no way for me to separate the two. My flatmate Roya Sachs – a curator with whom I co-directed “Virtually There” – and I share a mutual fascination for the Bauhaus, its entire aesthetic and many of its members. We are slowly assembling a proud collection of objects, books and artefacts that reflect this obsession. Being at home, surrounded by objects and imagery that I find meaningful and inspiring, is very important to me.
What initially brought you to New York? How and where do you find inspiration in NYC?
What essentially “got” me to New York was my current job as the creative director of C3 Management, but I have always been very drawn to the city. I love New Yorkers work ethic, their collaborative and multifaceted nature, and the constant overlap and proximity of cultures.
There are so many different places and institutions that are inspiring, among them the New Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Otherwise I love the Met Breuer, the Noguchi Museum in Queens, spending my afternoons at the Metrograph Cinema, or going to BAM—where I just saw the most mesmerizing performance “Last Work”, choreographed by Ohad Naharin with the Batsheva Dance Company.
What projects are coming up for you?
I will be directing a few music videos this upcoming month, the first being for the single TIGHTROPE by LPX—aka Lizzy Plappinger, former lead singer of the duo MSMR. The video will follow a dark, sci-fi 80s aesthetic made up entirely of block colours. Karole Armitage will be doing the choreography, which I am incredibly thrilled about as I absolutely admire her work and love collaborating with her—Karole also did the choreography for “Virtually There”.
Roya and I are currently in talks with different institutions to get “Virtually There” on tour for 2018/2019; whilst we are also working on a new performance piece.
Good luck and thank you very much for the interview!
* The figures are provided in accordance with the German regulation 'PKW-EnVKV' and apply to the German market only. Further information on official fuel consumption figures and the official specific CO₂ emissions of new passenger cars can be found in the EU guide 'Information on the fuel consumption, CO₂ emissions and energy consumption of new cars', which is available free of charge at all sales dealerships, from DAT Deutsche Automobil Treuhand GmbH and at www.dat.de.