Matthew Anthony Stokes
Film Visual Art

Visual Poems, Silent Dances of the Maquette Theatre


Videos from the experimental Maquette Theatre, co-founded by Matthew Anthony Stokes, create a visionary alternative universe replete with silent dances and visual poems that “unveil” ephemeral sculpture, including costumes, sets and masks. His solo 2017 show Camouflage appeared in Los Angeles, which illustrated his unique multi-disciplinary background in performance, corporeal dramaturgy, dance, sculpture, assemblage, film, photography, and poetry.

Matthew Anthony Stokes
© 2015 Matthew Anthony Stokes

Sculptures Dance on Film, Human, Interstellar at the Maquette Theatre

From Matthew Anthony Stokes: Following several years in Paris as students (and actors with Theatre de l’Ange Fou – Compagnie Steve Wasson/Corrine Soum) Matthew Anthony Stokes co-founded the MAQUETTE Theatre Company in September 1989 with artists Robert Bennett, Dirk Hendrikx, Guillaume Panneau and Ulrike Koennecke.

At first living and working in a barn in semi-rural Kent in England and later in Brussels the company grew into a larger collective, including cameramen, photographers, actors, lighting technicians and supportive friends.

I don’t like to think of my painting as ‘work’ too much. For me it is best seen like a realm of child-like play and escapism. But this attitude is informed by the sort of paintings that I like. These things are deeply personal. I have never had the remotest interest in working like a ‘Master’ painter… Nor have I ever had the slightest desire to have an Old European Master on my dream wall… But, then again, my dream wall is one in an old shed or barn – a hangar with a tin mug of tea… Rain on the tin roof – a hut with a view – hidden, perhaps, in a copse of trees.  — Matthew Anthony Stokes

As Maquette Theatre, they designed costumes, built theatrical sets and performed in front of audiences. Other times they simply photographed and filmed their artistic creations. In 1993, they moved to Brussels, which would be their home base for the remainder of their time together.

STORY: Dada as the Antidote to War and Capitalism

MAQUETTE Theatre: Wake – These films were created in England and Belgium by Matthew Anthony Stokes, Dirk Hendrikx, Robert Bennett, Ulrike Koennecke and Guillaume Panneau, as part of an art collective and experimental theater company known as Maquette, active from 1989 through 1998.

Due to an immediately strong, shared sense of artistic direction Stokes and Dirk Hendrikx found themselves at the helm of the company — and so together they designed, built and directed a dozen unique stage productions and films in England, Belgium, Holland and France.

Maquette: Golden Tent ll

MAQUETTE Theatre: Golden Tent II

“So, think Picasso mixed with Cocteau mixed with Rauschenberg – with a fair bit of Joseph Beuys, Kantor, Dada – and Punk – and that was kind of the area we had rolling around our minds I guess… Yet we were totally unique back then …”  — Matthew Anthony Stokes

STORY: Lady Lazarus: The Hurt Imagination of Sylvia Plath

Maquette: Golden Tent V

MAQUETTE Theatre: Golden Tent V

Influenced from the outset by dada; punk; street theatre; amateur, poor and ‘outsider’ arts; early film and photoplay; automata – and by ancient and ethnological ‘primitive’ arts – Maquette’s experimental body of work took the form of a consecutive series of recorded performances, live “unveilings”, texts, drawings, sculptural exhibits, sound recordings and, most important to them, an archive of hundreds of outer-stellar photographs and a dozen short films.

“Film was our purpose – the stars of the films were to be heavily stylized costumes and sets – costumes of a sculptural kind – sculptures made for movement – time based – choreographed sequences were worked upon and experimented with… We wanted to make these sculptures dance on film… But, we wanted them to remain costumes for the ‘Moon Man Poet’: completely human – but interstellar… farroutist… bizarre… alien… Dali… beautiful…”

STORY: Transformations: Stephen Scott’s Bowed Grand Piano, Plucked

Maquette: Lilly of Quex l

MAQUETTE Theatre: Lilly of Quex l, set to John Cage’s Dream

The work culminated in a series of gallery exhibitions, most notably in the Museum of Modern Art in Gent (SMAK, 1997) and in the Museum of Art in Kortrijk (Belgium 1998). Also in 1998, the silent film ‘Adrift on the Remains of the Grand Piano’ (live musical composition by AKA Moon) was featured as part of the Brussels Festival of Art.

STORY: Art of Collective Madness in Salvador Dalí’s ‘Impressions’

Maquette, Matthew Anthony Stokes
Maquette – Matthew Anthony Stokes and Dirk Hendrikx

At this moment, just as interest in their work was snowballing fast, they chose collectively – for personal reasons – to disband. They literally buried the costumes in large crates in the Belgian countryside and left the art world, always with the hope that the films would be edited and photographs cataloged so that Maquette could be exhibited in its fully realized form.

With the arbitrary choice of the year 2020 selected as a suitably distant future date from which to review, edit, reassess – perhaps to revive Maquette in some manner – they shelved the entire archive of their work and all involved went their separate ways.

Updated 4 May 2021

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  1. Pingback: Diane Arbus: A Privileged Voyeur of Life on the Margins

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