Thursday, December 02, 2010

Matt Stokes: "No Place Else Better Than Here" Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany

No Place Better Than Here
Kunsthalle Fridericianum
Kassel, Germany
04 December 2010 - 20 February 2011

In his works, many of which are filmic or event-based, the British artist Matt Stokes (born in Penzance, England, in 1973) deals with subcultures. In meticulous research, he explores the origins of certain music scenes and groups, investigating the specific local development of, say, the folk movement in Camden and Newcastle, Northern Soul in Dundee, and punk rock in Austin, Texas. Stokes is interested in the way in which music creates a collective feeling, serves as a catalyst for certain groups, and shapes and influences people's lives and identities. He immerses himself in a certain environment, gets involved with the community of a subculture, and in this way manages to convey the characteristics of certain scenes in an artistic manner which is not only documentary, but also personal and expressive. From his long-term research, in which he collects impressions, stories, and materials, he creates films, exhibition projects, musical works and events which develop their own conceptual and aesthetic life.

In terms of context, many of Stokes' works often closely relate to the musical history of the places for which he conceives an exhibition. In 2003, the artist initiated the continuous project Real Arcadia, which looked back at 1980s British rave culture and the 'cave raves' which were celebrated not in clubs but in caves in the open countryside. For the undertaking, Stokes established close contact with the performers of the day, collected film material, related TV reports and a number of objects such as cassettes, records, posters, flyers and T-shirts, on the basis of which he not only archived the history of this culture, but also revived it. The film Long After Tonight (2005) engages with Northern Soul, a British music movement and subculture which emerged in northern England and Scotland at the end of the 1960s and had a decisive impact on people's lifestyles. During an artist's residency in Austin, Texas, Matt Stokes created the work these are the days (2008) for Arthouse, in which he explored the punk, post-punk and DIY movements in Austin. Since the 1970s, these alternative music scenes have represented a kind of anti-attitude to the mainstream in Austin, developing into influential subcultures in the city. The film work The Gainsborough Packet (2008-09) emerged within the framework of a solo exhibition at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead and at the Project Space 176 in London. Reminiscent of the music video format and in the style of costume films, The Gainsborough Packet focuses on the move toward industrialisation in the mid 19th century and to the decisive importance of music and song in the daily lives of the young urbanised population.

With his Kassel exhibition Matt Stokes devotes himself to the phenomenon of the lasting effect of underground music as a counter-movement to the mainstream and its ability to spawn subcultures which influence people's opinions and lifestyles, issues which run through Stokes' entire oeuvre. Against this background, he will combine the film The Gainsborough Packet with sculptural and object works emerging from the cultural context of rave, and with a large film installation which Stokes is producing specifically for his show in Kassel. Installed in a semicircle which will dominate the main wing of the Fridericianum and recall ancient amphitheatre architecture, this new film work will take a penetrating look at the hardcore, grindcore and death metal music cultures that played a big role in Kassel's underground music scenes in the 1980s and 1990s. For this project, Stokes selected six hardcore singers, one from Kassel and the others from various countries outside Germany. Using a musical composition, Matt Stokes will combine their typical singing, which is usually devoid of words. The auditive aspect, the singers' movements and body postures, as well as the recording locations that form the background of the film will contribute to the special atmosphere of this work.


Matt Stokes
Real Arcadia (Never Been to Belgium), 2003 (ongoing)
12 x archive inkjet prints on paper

Courtesy of the artist and Workplace Gallery