In conversation with | Mette Sterre

4 Mins read

Central Saint Martins student, Mette Sterre, is one of the most interesting artists who will be exhibiting at the Made in Arts London (MiAL) Capsule exhibition, the third annual independent exhibition showcasing art and design from UAL students and recent graduates.

Mette experiments with the themes of horror and myths in her works, using physical characters to convey her messages as opposed to traditional forms of fine art and design.

Artefact caught up with Mette to find out more about the work she will be exhibiting at the Capsule show and what inspires her theatrical performances as well as costume designs.

Tell us a little about your background and why you decided to study an MA in performance design and practice.

I’d always thought I’d be a fashion designer when I would grow up. Last minute I changed my mind and decided to study Fine Art at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. There I started to do performance art, encouraged by my tutor Reinhaerdt Vanhoe, who challenged me to perform the work I did on videos and adapt them in a live format.

Eight years after graduating I really felt there was this whole field of notions and discourses in the theatrical field that I wasn’t aware of but did touch upon as my work is quiet theatrical. In order to grow and to deepen my understanding of my work I decided to move to London and study an MA in Performance Design & Practice.

mette sterre structurealist web ready


How do you use your work to tell stories? What stories do you like to tell?

I create photographic portraits of characters and living beings through costume design. I also create performances where these characters are brought to life, sometimes I actually use a narrator, mostly I use musical collages and light to create different phases in the narratives. The human mind is clever; you can make up your own narrative within the frame of the work.

I like to tell stories that have some sort of amazement in it; a twist with humour, something you didn’t see coming, to contrast and make the audience decide where they stand based on the emotions they experience; this can be uncanny, funny or through touching upon the sublime.

How would you describe your work?

I’m a London/Rotterdam-based visual artist mainly focussing on sculptural costume based performances and lens based media. My work deals with the grotesque; the world of topsy-turvy, the uncanny and paradox. I’m inspired by Fibonacci numbers in nature, sociology and the cultural history of horror movies.

By the de-identification of the human body, I question the stigmatisation of ‘the other’ and the social construction of identity. The grotesque image reflects a phenomenon in transformation, an as yet unfinished metamorphosis, of growing and becoming.

Like Dr. Frankenstein I like to sew body parts together, creating new forms of living beings in the form of sculptural costumes. With the performances I base on these costumes, I blur the boundaries of the animate and inanimate, gender, nature and artifice, object and subject.

The creatures are made through an elaborate period of manual labour. I feel like a sculpting Dr. Frankenstein sowing together new body parts to create a new life form, creating a sculptural costume that is brought to life through a performance. The music, set and loose narrative play an important role to support these anti-characters.

I believe there’s a strong connection with the manual labour and the experience of wearing a costume, to perform another worldly being. Another things that contributes to the creation and execution of these grotesque bodies is endurance. The costumes are restrictive in many ways; they are heavy, hot, have restricted eyesight, not easy to move in. To me this all is part of the work.

©Lovis Ostenrik

Hummelman 2013

What drew you to your chosen style? What inspires the work you’ll be showcasing at the Capsule show?

I’m inspired by horror movies, 80’s videoclips, nature, the Natural History museum, fashion, folklore, science and Fibonacci patterns. It’s hard to pinpoint but I guess I’ve always been a hoarder, not only in material sense but also in ideas.

There are several works that are going to be on display in this exhibition. One of them is Benjamin Franky (World of Warcraft #2) which is inspired by the victims of the First World War, and the trenches they fought in. These soldiers would be horribly disfigured, plastic surgery wasn’t as developed as it is now. The soldiers would be operated in order to restore their face, but they still end up pretty disfigured. However it did contribute to rapid progress in plastic surgery. The work shows the human sacrifice of  war and how trying to restore its past is a painful process without the desired results.

I’ve also been commissioned to create a performance on April 9, I will not reveal anything about it, you should just come and check it out!

What did you learn from studying at UAL and how have you applied it to your work?

The most important thing has been collaboration. In a fine art practice this isn’t really encouraged or thought of, even though you have artist collectives. It’s great to work together with people from different disciplines, everybody has something to bring to the table, something you’d never be able to accomplish on your own.

I have learnt so much about the context of my work; the grotesque and its systematics. Now I can be the person that gets very excited when asked about this and can talk for ever . I have to ask people to stop me when they don’t find it interesting anymore. I’ve become the kind of person to avoid at birthday parties!

You can watch Mette’s performance of Structurealist here.[divider type=”thin”]

The Capsule exhibition will run from Wednesday 8th April – Sunday 12th April.

Capsule celebrates the journey of MiAL’s artists as they work towards their careers as creative practitioners, and the journey of MiAL in supporting them to do so. All the work on display will be available for sale, offering a unique platform to collect affordable art and design pieces from some of the emerging stars of London’s art scene, and the next generation of artists.

Location: Embassy Tea Gallery, 195-205 Union Street, London, SE1 0LN

Opening Times: Thursday – Saturday: 10-6pm, Sunday 11-5pm


Images courtesy of Mette Sterre

Related posts

Stephen Sondheim 'writes from his brain about the human heart'

3 Mins read
Two years on from Stephen Sondheim’s passing, Lea Salonga tells Artefact about headlining the West End’s first major tribute revue for the composer.

How Poland's oldest drag queen has rediscovered herself

7 Mins read
How Lulla La Polaca is living proof that age is not an obstacle to living life at its best.

A noteworthy art collaboration

6 Mins read
We spoke with Made in Arts London and Affordable Art Fair about what might be the secrets of their long-lasting, successfully partnerships. Could/should that be replicated by other art organisations?