Monday, March 05, 2007

Matt Stokes The Grave Of Rave

Hope of an interview with Matt Stokes led me to hold out on putting a blog up about recent happy hardcore on an organ shennigans down in Christchurch cathedral. Stokes's two fold work also piqued the interest of dance music fans across the city with the first exhibition of the new year in Temple Bar Gallery.

A recipient of the Beck's Futures award in 2006, Stokes' "Lost in the Rhythm" exhibition was a pared down version of his Glasglow show "Lost in Arcadia." The show focused on the pheoneonemon of rave as it expressed itself in Cumbria in the early nineties.

In city enviroments swarming with abandonned warehouses and later on sites off major motorways, shelter from state eyes was easily found, but in rural Wales local organisers like Out House Promotions used some lateral thinking to settle on quarry caves as a party zone.

The exhibition was ridiculously simple, with the artifacts of a very localised rave scene displayed in a boring set of cases like archaeological nuggets from pop cultural memory. Flyers, membership cards, t-shirts and newspaper cuttings, DJ mix tapes and a scattering of photographs were the scrap book that presented an ordering of the period within which the parties happened.

A massive section of text illustrated the rebel impulse behind a rave culture that beat against state survillance and eventual repression through the CJA. 'If you found the helicopter then you found the party' remembers one party goer quoted. Stokes locates rave in a cannon of working class popular moments of cultural outlawdom as subversive movement.

Visually the exhibition was disappointing. The accompanying film of the Northren Soul scene "Long After Tonight" seemed to be missing on the day I was there, a TV sat at an awkward floor level angle replaying a badly edited loop of TV news with a local copper summating all paniced parental fears. A speaker sat in one corner as if it had just been humped there, useless with no character or joy to it.

With an exhibition devoid of atmosphere and bereft of the enthuasism that surely had to drive the period, so Stokes should consider himself in a very lucky position to get away with this, able to present his teenage weekend music and partying habits as a work of art is a lofty privilege to aspire to. Start stockpiling those gig flyers now.

Down in Christchurch Cathedral it was a whole other story as Dr Groove briliantly describes. Arriving down early at ten to eight was useless as the 800 maximum space was already full. Being unable to get in did allow plenty of time for scheming up one liners and jokes about this conflation of mass and the rave massif. In a period of a happy hardcore famine, its no surprise the protestants would close the door on us for fear we'd disecrate the water cistern.

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I saw Matt Stokes' "Long After Tonight"; it's stunning; a true piece of art. But I'm still searching what music is used in it. (artist? - track?)
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