Magazine article Art Monthly

Matt Stokes

Magazine article Art Monthly

Matt Stokes

Article excerpt

Matt Stokes 176 London February 26 to June 26

Matt Stokes is on to something. It's the way that music subcultures, particularly non-mainstream music subcultures, provide a sense of collectivity; how they act as a catalyst for particular groups to come together and then shape and influence people's lives and identities. His films, video installations and what we might call social interaction events may display the same expansive, ludic sensibility that's prevalent in so much of the current wave of informal and discursive artmaking and curating. However, there is something about the character of this type of music scene as it operates in particular urban situations, and the care which he as an artist devotes to building up close relationships with those involved, that makes his work seem unusually grounded and significant.

Two of the three main rooms at 176 are devoted to specific music scenes. In the first, a two-channel video, these are the days, 2008-09, captures the sweaty, rumbustious world of punk: on one screen, there is slightly slowed down footage of mosh pit mayhem at a gig Stokes organised in Austin, where he had a residency last year, and on the other, a youthful band roars out adolescent disgruntlement--the two screen arrangement neatly calling attention to the peculiarly circular way in which punk bands and audiences feed off one another.

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Next door The Gainsborough Packet is playing. This is a video piece but one that employs the standard conventions of music video, the music scene here being that of folk in which traditionally stories rather than audience behaviour take priority. So we find ourselves watching the leading British folk singer Sam Lee not only miming to a recording of his own singing but also, with the help of a cast in period costume, acting out six episodes in the life of an early 19th-century Newcastle working man, John Burdikin, whom Stokes found out about from an ancient letter in a Newcastle archive. One moment, for instance, Lee/Burdikin rescues a little girl who has fallen into the Tyne; the next, there he is narrowly escaping death as he tries to save a burning ship, the Gainsborough Packet, moored at the Newcastle Quayside. …

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