Matt Stokes, The Gainsborough Packet, &c.
176 and Newcastle-based artist Matt Stokes have been working together to produce Stokes's first solo show in London. The exhibition includes the newly commissioned song and film The Gainsborough Packet, a social interaction project entitled Club Ponderosa and the UK premiere of these are the days, a two-channel film made during his residency at Arthouse in Austin, Texas, as well as works from the Zabludowicz Collection.
Stokes's research-based practice is frequently concerned with musical subcultures. He proceeds by acquainting himself with particular groups, their histories and values, then producing films, installations and event-based works related to his findings. Collaboration and shared authorship are central to his practice, as is an enthusiasm for DIY approaches. For The Gainsborough Packet, Stokes has collaborated with musician Jon Boden from acclaimed folk-big-band Bellowhead, composer Alistair Anderson, who is one of the UK's leading exponents of the folk tradition, and Tim Kerr, an iconic figure of the US punk and early hardcore scene.
The Gainsborough Packet, &c. is the culmination of a year's research and development, which began with Stokes's discovery in the Tyne & Wear archives of a letter written in 1828 by an ordinary man named John Burdikin. Tracing the adventures of Burdikin's life, the letter was the inspiration for lyrics, music and a 16mm film created by Stokes and his collaborators on the project. The Gainsborough Packet engages with folk traditions, contemporary music videos and popular culture, and is being produced with a particular sensitivity to the shared legacy of folk music in Camden and Newcastle - Gateshead, where Stokes lives. Since the rapid growth of these areas during the latter half of the 19th century, folk music and traditions have played an important role in the social and cultural fabric of each area, and this relevance is highlighted by The Gainsborough Packet. The Gainsborough Packet is a co-commission with BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, which will be exhibiting the work from 4 March to 10 May 2009.
Also produced as part of Stokes's residency at 176, Club Ponderosa takes its name from both the ranch in the famous 1960s TV series Bonanza and a shelter built in a Newcastle neighbourhood by residents of a crescent seeking an independent space to meet and talk. Club Ponderosa will function as a place for performances and social interaction designed and programmed by residents of the area around 176. Developed in collaboration with self-organised groups and gifted amateurs, the club will operate within 176, but with its own series of events and a separate entrance and access times. It will also include MASS, a free collective sound system made up of donated elements. Both works produced as part of Stokes's residency are being developed partly in response to the history of the former Methodist chapel that houses 176 and its surrounding area.
Matt Stokes is represented by Workplace Gallery.