Saturday, September 27, 2014

Matt Stokes: "In Absence of the Smoky God" Site Gallery, Sheffield, UK

Image: Matt Stokes in Absence of the Smoky God, 2014. (Production still) Dual channel HD Film and Audio installation, 7.24 minutes.  Commissioned by Site Gallery and Sensoria Festival. Courtesy of the artist and Workplace Gallery


Matt Stokes

In Absence of the Smoky God

Site Gallery
1 Brown Street 
Sheffield S1 2BS, UK


27th September - 8th November 2014


Site Gallery presents In Absence of the Smoky God, a major new commission by artist Matt Stokes. Taking the form of a two-screen video and audio installation, the work is inspired by hidden Sheffield locations, sci-fi literature and Barry Hines' 1984 BBC TV production Threads, which portrayed a fictional cold-war nuclear attack on Britain.


Filmed on location in Sheffield, Threads chronicled the before, during and after effects of atomic detonations on the city's citizens. 30 years after its original broadcast, Stokes envisions a more fantastical post-apocalyptic tale by imagining the impact of such an event on the human body, and its social and cultural consequences.


Collaborating with composer Ben Gaunt and a cast of 10 Sheffield-based vocalists, he has created a vision of a transformed society in which archaic customs and systems prevail. In this futuristic world, the human voice and other functions, have been affected by radiation sickness and environmental diseases.


Against this backdrop, Stokes and his collaborators explore the possibilities of shifts in communication through altered speech patterns and capabilities. This manifests itself with two languages being spoken by two different societies. One society survives in a lamp-lit underworld, communicating via a form of mutated English and clipped sounds, whilst the second lives in a scorched overground environment conversing via a form of tonal expression. Heard together the two different groups produce conflicting vocal sounds, which as the work progresses, move closer to each other, from disharmony to harmony, eventually attempting to achieve union.


The gallery will also house a selection of printed materials from Barry Hines' archive, which are on loan from the University of Sheffield Library. Elements include papers and images relating to the filming of Threads 30 years ago, scripts and manuscripts annotated by Barry Hines and the original BBC press release from the televised broadcast. Letters and press cuttings following the broadcast on 23 September 1984 give insight into the reaction to Threads, and the social and political interest in the imagined aftermath of nuclear attack.


About the artist:


Matt Stokes is based in Blaydon-on-Tyne. Recent solo-shows include Grundy Art Gallery (UK), Kunsthalle Fridericianum (Germany), De Hallen Haarlem (Netherlands), CAAC (Spain), BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art (UK) and Arthouse (USA). His practice stems from inquiries into events and beliefs that shape people's lives and identities. Music - its history, subcultures and socio-political effects - often provides the catalyst for researching and forming collaborative relationships with communities. These collaborations develop into films, installations and events, which build upon collective knowledge and skills.