ZieherSmith presents the New York debut of these are the days (2009), a film installation by British artist Matt Stokes originally commissioned by Arthouse, Austin, Texas, and the launch of the accompanying catalogue designed by British collective, Abake. Inspired by punk rock subcultures, these are the days is the artist’s first institutional commission in the United States.
In 2007, Arthouse invited Stokes to create a new film project with ZieherSmith acting as co-producer. these are the days is the result of Stokes’ close work with communities connected to Austin’s music scene and his extensive research into anti-establishment musical genres, particularly punk rock. Investigating the dichotomies expressed within earlier and later punk communities, his research ultimately led to the creation of the dual channel film installation, an archival installation exhibition exclusively at Arthouse, and the publication about both.
The first film features footage from a specially organized punk show, staged by Stokes, at the Broken Neck, an alternative venue in Austin and filmed by renowned cinematographers Lee Daniel and P.J. Raval. The second film, created in response at a recording session at Austin’s Sweatbox Studios, depicts a makeshift band’s musical reaction to the event footage. A reversal of roles between audience and performers, the work examines the concepts of inspiration and response. Punk as it was then and as it is now, different yet the same–these are the days.
Matt Stokes’ artistic practice is marked by anthropological enquiry and an interest in happenings or informal movements that bind people together. Taking a variety of forms — from organizing events and assembling archives to making films and creating sculptural installation — Stokes’ works are often collaborative in nature and sometimes take place outside the traditional gallery space. Music subcultures have been central to the development of his most recent projects, which have focused on their ability to shape lifestyle, beliefs and create community. Northern Soul, acid/house and black metal are among the genres of music he has explored, poetically revealing music’s intrinsic ability to create fellowship through devotion or the quasi-religious experience of dance.
these are the days was first presented in 2009 at Arthouse and at 176 / Zabludowicz Collection, a major new contemporary art space located in London. The London show also featured The Gainsborough Packet (2009, co-commissioned by 176 and the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art), which will screen in the back room of ZieherSmith. An editioned dubplate featuring music from both these are the days and The Gainsborough Packet is also available. The Abake-designed catalogue will be first released at the opening and includes documentation of both the film piece and of ephemera from the 1970s and 1980s related to the punk, post-punk, and DIY movements in Austin, material that was presented as an ambiguous archive at Arthouse.
Matt Stokes was born in 1973 in Penzance, England and currently lives in Gateshead, England. He is the 2006 recipient of the esteemed Beck’s Futures Prize, awarded by the ICA, London and is currently on the shortlist for the 2009 Northern Art Prize. In 2009, he was also included in solo and group exhibitions at the Baltic Centre of Contemporary Art, Newcastle, and the Lentos Museum, Linz, Austria, among other venues. Special thanks to Arthouse, the Arts Council England, Michael A. Chesser, Johnna and Stephen Jones, and Julie and John Thornton.