Sophie Mellor was the perfect inaugural long-term resident at PLAND. Having never been to the United States, Sophie met the Wild West with openness and bravery. She was provided with simple provisions for survival – a pit-house dug down to bedrock, a compost toilet, candles, drinking water, and a propane cook stove — as well as our eager company. Sophie brought with her a tiny rucksack, a wicked sense of humor, a calmness of spirit, a video camera, and an inquisitive mind. She learned basket making, cooked some mean Thai peanut sauce, gave us awesome feedback about the workings of PLAND, and helped us to see the power of urine.
Sophie is a gang leader and a gang follower, an urban hermit and a trainee horseback archer. She is currently giving up bad habits she does not possess; researching futility; meeting with animals; embroidering money and living in a cave.
She is co-founder and co-director of Plan 9, a Bristol based artist-led visual arts organisation that ran from 2005 – 2010. She has a collaborative based practice focused on creating discussion through action and provocation, setting up constructs that challenge notions of self and society. She is interested in setting up structures that exist outside of the art world, but utilise an art context as a platform for dissemination.
An obstinate autodidact, she is currently teaching herself CSS; electric guitar and Final Cut Pro – unsure as to how the these skills will fit together, but confident that all three will be vital in navigating the prevailing economic climate. Current projects include video (exploring the intersection between industry and nature); green woodworking (using traditional skills to focus on contemporary notions of sexuality and nature); and extortion (providing security to those with resources in these times of austerity).
“I spent four weeks at PLAND in August 2010, exploring beauty through everyday acts. Having never visited the US, I imagined New Mexico to be a harsh, hot desert full of snakes and scorpions. I was pleasantly surprised by the lush green mesa of sage brush, wide (wide) open blue skies and the odd hailstorm amid the heat. Not a scorpion in sight, and snakes sufficiently banished by the osha root given to me by PLAND as a welcoming gift.
Living off-grid slows time down, giving everyday acts such as washing, cooking and keeping warm, a meditative quality. Living and working outdoors; figuring out how to keep the mice from your food; the best way to wash your whole body in a small basin of water; and dealing with your ‘human waste’ concentrates the mind and connects you totally with your surroundings.
This stripped back existence inspired me to focus on one of life’s most basiceveryday acts – peeing. A series of experiments followed: making a pee battery; distilling pee bleach and dyeing clothes; extracting water from pee via a solar still; attempting to sell pee fertilizer. PLAND gave me the time and space to see where these experiments would go and ended up intersecting with other aspects of my residency.
I was also fortunate to make friends with the basket weaver Bob Allalunis , who took me around the locality and taught me to make baskets from the red willow growing in the irrigation ditches. Our friendship led to a lot of interesting conversations around value and cost, as well as insight into local history. These conversations, the basket making (and oddly, the pee experiments), led to two videos that were filmed during the residency – one looking at exchange and the other at the dualistic nature of history. A road trip with PLAND’s Nina, also furnished me with footage for a third video centered around the convergence of industry and nature.
The residency at PLAND was a fantastic experience, giving me the opportunity to expand my practice in a challenging yet supportive environment. The PLAND way of working, and their commitment and verve is hugely inspiring, and being able to contribute to the beginning of their compelling new project was a joy and an adventure.”