Mattko (Matt Smith): 'Smokescreen Sound System'
Mattko (Matt Smith): 'Smokescreen Sound System'

Mattko (Matt Smith): 'Smokescreen Sound System'

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Mattko (Human Being, b.1966)

'Smokescreen Sound System, third anti-Criminal Justice Bill march' (1994)

  • Platinum/palladium contact hand print
  • Edition /10, signed lower right
  • Printed on Hahnemuhle 300gsm platinum rag paper
  • 59.4cm x 42cm


Matthew Smith is the West Country artist whose current identity is Mattko. His work in photography began in earnest during the early 90s as part of Sunnyside. The direct action soundsystem collective first formed in Bristol to create free party culture in opposition to the outlawing of raves, travellers, squatters, peaceful protest and freedom of speech by the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act. Using their combined multi-media talents they made events, protest, film, photography and graphic information designed to perpetuate the culture and empower networked resistance to the legislation. Their activities helped to unite the community and define the diy aesthetic that inspired 90s Bristol street art. 

Once described by Venue magazine as “John Majors worst nightmare”, Matts work has been published worldwide and most recently exhibited at the Saatchi Gallery in 2019. He is the author of two highly successful monographs, Exist To Resist and Full On Non Stop All Over. The source material comes from his extensive Mattko Archive, an image library of some 250,000 images compiled from three decades of making work with the intention of weaponizing history for a better future. The archive was recently recognised as a conservation project of national importance and supported by the Heritage Lottery Foundation. 

The two works shown here are platinum prints. Craft based, handmade and commissioned by Vanguard especially for the show, they are made from highly sophisticated large-scale stencils activated by light instead of paint, using a traditional analogue print technique combined with modern digital technology. Expensive to produce but incredibly long lived and tonally resonant, the platinum reproduction is utilised here to pay respect to the subject matter of protest and its important role in the evolution and development of the social contract. 

While the prints are modern, the images date from 1994.“Smokescreen” depicts the lorry housing Sheffield’s finest house music sound system collective in Marble Arch, London during the third Anti CJA demo just before the state sponsored violence that became known as the Battle of Hyde Park. Martin is the driver of the truck in front of the Police, to the right is a Kill The Bill placard distributed by the heavily police infiltrated Socialist Worker Party, to the left John T holds a sign saying Stop Trying To Kill Our Culture painted by a fledgling Banksy. As ever the power of these images lies in their realism and personal documentary truth.