Fashioning Frankenstein

By Estefanía Perez

Image courtesy of Mette Sterre.

Once upon a time there was a little girl who made little clothes for her Barbies, loved horror movies and didn’t believe in happy endings, because she did not trust a world in which everything was good. The little girl wanted to become a fashion designer yet abandoned that path. She wanted to create other worlds, to see the characters that inhabited her mind come to life, so she became an artist.

Image courtesy of Mette Sterre.

Mette Sterre is no longer a child, but it isn’t hard to see that the little girl is still there. Her hands move a lot when she speaks. Under the dim lights they look like little dancing creatures creatures. We ordered drinks, she recommended the Metamorphosis, “It comes with a surprise.” The cocktail arrived with a little cocoon hanging over it, which she dropped inside the glass to dissolve and reveal a butterfly. She laughed, satisfied with the transformation. In a way, what had just happened is not too different from what she does: creating and transforming characters like a modern Frankenstein. “I live for those moments in which I welcome people to enter these other worlds I’ve created,” she explains. “It is a very amazing and rewarding thing to be able to create these characters.”

Image courtesy of Mette Sterre.

After graduating from Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam, Mette still felt like she was “lacking knowledge” so in 2012 she moved to London to do an MA in Performance Design at Central Saint Martins. “It’s a bit problematic, when you graduate, because you’re all like ‘oh, of course I know how to do things my way’,” she sang the “my way” bit, in her best rendition of Frank Sinatra, “and then you realise that your way is not …” she paused, and sang again: “the way.” She laughed, amused by her own singing. “You just have to trust your way is ‘a way’.”

Image courtesy of Mette Sterre.

She describes her performances as windows to her world and the characters that inhabit it as her babies. She puts months of work into these creatures, and when they’re finally “born” she always thinks they look even more beautiful than she had imagined. As a mother, she admitted she has a favourite child: The Structurealist, made out of 500 metres of fabric, took her half a year to finish. “The first time it was finally presented, I just cried.”

However, Mette doesn’t mind dedicating so much time to her creations. “When you believe in something so much, you would do anything for it to come to life.” The parallel with the image of Frankenstein and the mad scientist is definitely there, and she likes it. “I do feel like I’m a mad scientist at times, because I become very obsessive when I’m working.”

Image courtesy of Mette Sterre.

On the story of Frankenstein, her sentiment changes. “I relate more to the monster that he creates.” This came as a surprise, since she usually plays the creator role in her performances — and in her life — but the truth is, she has felt like an outcast too: “I think we all do, because we are all alone inside ourselves.” When asked if that’s the reason why her characters are always so alien, she said it’s in humans to differentiate between “us” and “them” and to fear the latter. But her creatures aren’t human, they’re grotesque, and the grotesque is “where opposites can be one”. She said: “Sometimes up is down, that’s why people should always question everything.” Is that what she does in her performances? “Yes! And I think art should do that.” She paused after saying this, and whispered the sentence to herself, half proud of her answer and half laughing at it. “Oh yeah, I think art should do that.”