Five Questions for Christine Mladic
Name: Christine Mladic
1. Where did you grow up and how did you end up where you are now?
Two years ago I came to New York City, from Chicago, for graduate school at NYU where I had won a full Master’s fellowship. I got my ID, and I kept looking at it and thinking, “This has to be a scam; this has to be a joke.” I couldn’t believe I was going to get to go to graduate school for free.
So, I thought I would test out the ID. I went to the library to swipe it, and was certain that it would be rejected.
The library is not open to the public. They have glass doors that slide open once you swipe your card, similar to subway turnstiles. I swiped my card and sure enough–they opened up and I walked through. To me it was a symbolic action–it seemed possible that I could connect all of these seemingly disparate parts of my life through my Master’s studies. Being accepted into the program showed me that somebody else thought that they might be connected in interesting ways as well. To give you an idea, I have a BFA in Photography, a BA in English Lit, I have worked in communications, I volunteered in South America and developed a photography program for young women, I have worked on an online community magazine in Chicago–somehow they all came together in a Master’s in Latin American and Caribbean Studies.
2. Which performance, song, play, movie, painting or other work of art had the biggest influence on you and why?
Recently, the Brooklyn Public Library had a free talk on Gabriel Orozco’s work after which free tickets were handed out to go see his show at the MoMA. So my boyfriend and I did both. While I’m not too excited to hear other people talk about Orozco’s work, it was really cool to hear him talk about his work in the free audio tour.
He impressed me with the way that he lives his life: he doesn’t believe in the isolation of the studio; he walks around, and he interacts with people and objects. One of his pieces we saw at the MoMa was a sculpture made by patching together different inner tubes from tires. It looked like a huge rock. My boyfriend and I really liked it, because it was this mundane object that he turned into something fascinating. The piece was enhanced by Orozco’s story of how it was made. I feel that, lately, Orozco has had an impact on me, and how I think about being creative on a daily basis.
3. What skill, talent or attribute do you most wish you had and why?
I can’t stay up all night as easily as in the past, and I wish I could. Because when you have been awake all night, when most other people are sleeping, there’s a different kind of consciousness that I don’t think you can access in the day.
4. What do you do to make a living? Describe a normal day.
RIght now I don’t have a regular schedule, so I’ll tell you about a day a year ago, and then I’ll tell you about a recent day:
A year ago there was this day in which I actually did, for once, stay out dancing all night. I was in Cusco, Peru, with a group of friends. We had met a group of Peruvians, and they took us out dancing. It was a lot of fun.
After staying up all night, my friend (who was in visiting from New York) and I took a bus to a small town outside of Cusco named Pisac. We met up with an indigenous family and stayed with them for the rest of the evening and the next morning. I practiced my Quechua with them, the kids and I took short videos of their guinea pigs, and they shared their family photos with me. That was a great day.
Recently, I went to an arts fair in Philadelphia. One vendor hollowed out old books and made secret compartments in them. It was a brilliant idea, and I thought that my brother and his wife would love one. So I went to the Strand, and I got a book from 1929 for a dollar. I already have hollowed it out, and am working on the secret compartment. It’s not the only thing I’ve been doing with my time, but it’s exemplary my work style. I try to do things that are interesting to me, or things that I feel are important. And I’ve been very lucky that so far, it’s worked out. The bills get paid.
5. Have you ever had to make a choice between work and art? What did you choose, why, and what was the outcome?
Sometimes, within limitations, you can actually become more creative. One time my sister sat me down with a blank sheet of paper and she said, “If you had a magic wand and you could do anything you wanted, what would you do?” I made a list. Then we tried to figure out how I could achieve each item. It was an interesting exercise. We decided that in order for my wishes to be fulfilled the first step would be to obtain what we called an “enabling job” for a limited amount of time. After that, I would have the means to pursue other items on the list. Luckily, I can do more than one thing at the same time. But there’s always a balancing act between what you’re completely passionate about and things that need to get done. It’s more complicated than an either/or situation.