Richard Grayson, Messiah, 2004 (installation view).
Richard Grayson, Messiah, 2004 (installation view).
Richard Grayson, Messiah, 2004 (installation view).
Richard Grayson, Messiah, 2004 (installation view).

Richard Grayson, Messiah, 2004 (installation view).


Richard Grayson


19 April – 21 June 2024

Originally shown in 2004, Messiah was Richard Grayson’s first exhibition at Matt’s Gallery, Copperfield Road, E3 4RR. In the intervening 20 years he has made 5 gallery shows, including the recently concluded W.S.I.N. (Weird Shit In Nature).

MattFlix is very pleased to host a single screen edit of the original two screen installation of this seminal video work by the artist.

The work was created in 2003 in the context of the emergence of the Taliban and Al Qaida, the narratives of the second Iraq war, and the ways Christian Evangelical religious revivals were seeking to shape politics and policies in the USA, the UK and Australia, where the artist had been living. Over much of the 20th century, narratives derived from secular ideologies such as Marxism and Fascism shaped political activity and action, but ideas derived from ancient revealed religious and mystical texts once again seemed to be trying to shape the world.

The work saw Grayson approach the Australian Country & Western band The Midnight Amblers to collaborate on composing and performing new music for the libretto to George Frideric Handel’s 1742 Oratorio Messiah. The original text, compiled and assembled by Charles Jennens, was created to support the idea that Jesus Christ was indeed the Messiah anticipated by the Jewish prophets of the Old Testament. It was conceived as a rebuttal and counterblast to the ideas of Deism, which sought to resolve theology with the emerging scientific discoveries of Enlightenment Rationalism by stating that God had created the world to run according to natural laws, and that divine interventions and miracles are unnecessary and do not occur.

The Midnight Amblers wrote country rock tunes around the words, only fleetingly making reference to Handel’s original melodies – such as in the famous ‘Hallelujah Chorus’. Friends, family and members of the band shot footage of them performing and miming to the songs on DV tapes in studios and backyards in Sydney and sent them to Grayson in Berlin, where he edited them together to make a two-screen installation where the audience sat on scented bales of hay to enjoy the band’s performance.

Handel’s Messiah holds a central place in British culture, being listened to and performed by many in choirs and events around the country. By taking the words out of the matrix of classical music, they are made active and uncanny again: describing a magical cosmos where a believer in a particular Deity and their prophet will be made immortal to live with the Gods and all others will suffer and die. Rather than merely a distant component of ‘high culture,’ the artist aimed to foreground the libretto as an expression of an active non-rational supernatural belief system derived from Bronze-age desert religions, pantheons and prophecies, which have deep and significant cultural and political agency in the present day.

Like Handel’s Messiah which has stood the test of time, Robin Klassnik would like to say that Richard Grayson’s Messiah has also stood the test of time.

Duration: 1hr 9mins


The Midnight Amblers are David Duloy, David Messer and Robert Scott

Additional musicians, David Delves and Michael Kerin

Special thanks to Billy Crawford