Matt Stokes: These Are the Days

Start your own damn band

Matt Stokes. <i>these are the days</i>, 2008-09, two-projection installation
Matt Stokes. these are the days, 2008-09, two-projection installation

British artist Matt Stokes received his very first commission in the United States from Arthouse in Austin, and he's doing a solo film and audio installation that the visual-arts organization is calling an "anthropological enquiry" based on "extended visits" here by this foreign-born artist "responding to aspects of the city's punk rock subculture." Is the subculture of punk beneath the social mores of Austinites? Would Arthouse describe a drug manufacturer as someone with an interest in chemistry and hydroponic growing systems? Fortunately, looking at his actual writing and images is more exciting than reading Arthouse's oddly formal descriptions of the project.

I'm stoked to go to Stokes' art talk on Saturday, Jan. 24, at 3pm. It's free and open to the public. I received his aggressive flier in the mail and found it charming. "Don't assume that not wearing a swastika makes you any less of a Nazi. We see you." Is this an indictment of all the folks in the greenroom at Room 710 during a Fuckemos show? Stokes repeatedly uses the inclusive "we," which feels correct. He writes: "You can keep your overpriced, chrome-plated, garbage can of a society. We will not participate. ... We'd rather go to Raul's." He must have studied musicology with Jason Austin at Lovejoys. His work appears to be part history lesson, part call to action. "Stasis is the death of art and the staple of boredom." His flier rants briefly on topics such as crime, freedom of expression, commercialization, conformity, and revolutionary art. It's inspirational; I've always wanted to say this in the Chronicle, but I have never had a good reason to. I absolutely hate the slogan "keep Austin weird." For the last four years or so, every time the city of Austin has asked artists for art that "keeps Austin weird," it has made my stomach hurt. The phrase is so damn meaningless. There, I said it, and I feel better already. The punk rock spirit confronts things publicly and is physically cathartic.

I'm glad the fine art world of Austin is investigating our city's sweet punk rock traditions. Last month, I thoroughly enjoyed the show at testsite by Chicago collective Temporary Services. These artists made tribute zines about the Dicks' lyrics, and Tim Kerr photocopied and handed out old Big Boys fliers. I'm excited to see if the punk zeitgeist of Stokes' film and sound installation (from a punk show at the Broken Neck and a recording session at Sweatbox Studio) will be powerful enough to fully transform and energize the gallery space.

"Matt Stokes: These Are the Days" will be on display Jan. 24-April 5 at Arthouse's Jones Center for Contemporary Art, 700 Congress. Talking Art With Matt Stokes, a free public program featuring the artist, will be held Saturday, Jan. 24, 3pm, at the Jones Center. For more information, call 453-5312 or visit

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