Above: Girl Gang, Sophie Mellor, 2010

Sophie Mellor

My interest in Art Gene

I am drawn to Art Gene by its track record of working with artists in a supportive environment, and its commitment to research, dialogue and critical debate. Art Gene shares my interest in exploring collaborative working that looks outside the traditional gallery environment and engages directly with site and audience.

What I will be doing and what I hope to achieve

Strum und Drang was a German reaction to the confines of rationalism imposed by the Enlightenment. A precursor to Romanticism, ‘Storm and Stress’ emphasised strong emotions and the sublimity of untamed nature.

Land Art of the twentieth century, with its emphasis on individual subjective experience, followed the Romantic tradition – reacting against Modernism (which has Enlightenment at its centre) and returning to the heroic figure directly experiencing the landscape. Land Arts’ seemingly egalitarian mode of production, taking art out of the gallery and back to the people, has been frustrated by its own contradictory desire for permanence. Consumed by the value of its documentation – most Land Art exists only in glossy coffee table books, making the individual’s experience bound by the rationality of capitalism.

The urbanisation of the landscape in the 21st century, has replaced the awe of nature with mediated experience of “stim and dross”. In 1995, the architect Lars Lerup was the first to use “stim and dross” in the context of urban landscapes. “Stim”, the deliberate, developed urban areas and “dross”, where urban sprawl meets urban dereliction: landscapes of wasted land where the planners gave up.

In his recent book DrosscapeAlan Berger suggests that in a capitalist and consumer-driven economy, the landscape is waste just like almost everything else. That waste landscape will always be somewhere, changing locations as previous ones are reintegrated and new ones are created somewhere else.

Dross is a dimension of the landscape that exists at margins of our consciousness. We catch glimpses of it from train windows; we stumble upon it through wrong turns; we sense it at the outer margins of our out-of-town shopping expeditions.

During my curatorial residency I will be investigating:

  • Urban wastelands.
  • Modes of art production that subvert commodification.
  • Modes of documentation that skirt commodification and assist dissemination.
  • The artist-led tradition of utilising empty buildings by reframing it within the ouse of ‘empty’ landscapes for the production of art.
  • A curatorial model that reflects the apparent non-ownership of urban wastelands.

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