Artist doing performances, installations, objects and collages. He lives and works in Brussels and Kraków. Born in 1979.
In his artistic practice, he mostly creates situations based on the confrontation between the world of violence and the world of art. To do this, he often invokes the history of stadium events, and also events of his own life back from when he was a football fan club member. Dudek does so in order to deconstruct the recreated memories in a gallery space. The space intended for art object exhibition and initiating artistic actions becomes a place, in which the artist’s personal experiences clash with the universal issues of mob psychology, architecture and the society of the spectacle.
Performance and initiating situations which draw on his personal experience from the adolescent football fan years is one of Dudek’s artistic practices. At the turn of the 1990s, when Dudek was a member of Cracovia’s (a Kraków-based football team’s) hooligan groups, Poland was still undergoing system-wide transformation. It was a time of outlawry on the rise in local estates and of the growth of influential hooligan groups. Their clashes with each other and with the police, associated with the system of control and power, escalated. The conflict between football fans dwelling in respective estates, and even singular apartment blocks, ties into the problem of appropriating and hijacking the public space by these groups.
In his performances, Dudek returns to the period when he was engaged in hooligan life and when this environment dictated his lifestyle. In the Head in the Sand (2015) action, performed in Leto Gallery in Warsaw, he reconstructed the look of his Kraków room from when he was an adolescent. While performing, dressed in a tracksuit and wearing a hat characteristic of a football fan, he wished to escape the room using a hooligan’s equipment: a knife, a flare and a concrete window sill, which brought to mind a piece of architecture forming the concrete tribunes. It is exactly Dudek’s room’s reconstructed space which was once a place in which two worlds collided: that of violence and of art. In the performance, leaving the room led to a reconciliation between the two seemingly opposing realities: stadium violence and artistic action. It was also an attempt to compromise what shaped Dudek’s personality in the past with what he currently creates in the art space.
Other performances conducted in Belgium and England – Wild (2013), Saved by an Unseen Crack (2015), We Stumbled as we Clambered (2015) – are also, in equal measure to Head in the Sand, an attempt to take a new view at the phenomenon of the stadium hooligans and the aesthetisation of violence. Dudek once again reconstructs his own memories in the gallery space and collides them with the practice of performance art.
It is worth mentioning that Dudek performs his hooligan acts in solitude. What sense is there in a lone battle? What sense is there in the hooligan reality in the gallery space, where there are no opponents, knightly bouts over a flag, nationalisms and stadium xenophobia? It seems that Dudek’s aim is to tackle the universal problem of an individual’s functioning in the crowd and to study its uncontrollable behaviour. In this case, he presents how singular physical actions influence the crowd’s psychological workings. It is puzzling to what degree the gallery crowd can resemble the crowd at a stadium and whether the adrenaline unleashed during a football match can equate to the one unleashed during the performance. Being part of the crowd can finally lead to unexpected acts, difficult to control and unleashing layers of violence. In turn, the hooligan performances in the gallery – a place dedicated to exhibiting art – allow to view these types of behaviours differently from how they happen at a stadium or a local estate.
The remnants of Marcin Dudek’s performances are items which were not created by the artist (the so-called ready-mades), but were transformed into art objects during his performances and left in the gallery space. Such objects are primarily items connected to a hooligan’s life: parts of the stadium’s architecture, a stone from a railway, an orange military jacket or a knife. Dudek consciously deconstructs these primitive ‘ready-mades’ into objects he calls ‘anti-ready-mades’. These ‘anti-ready-mades’, due to a transformation occurring during a performance, become a negation of its original form. Due to the realisation of an artistic action they create intrinsic installations in the gallery without the need for the curator’s concept. Moved into the gallery space, they become a part of a new structure, the exhibition, and its arrangement often depends on how the given performance will end.
One of the objects most used by Dudek is a military jacket turned inside-out, revealing the colour orange. In the 1990s, this jacket was very popular among football fans. Today, in Eastern Europe, orange functions as a token of opposing the power and establishment. At the turn of the 1980s in Poland, it was also a symbol of Orange Alternative’s anti-communist happenings, and at the beginning of the 21st century – of the political revolution in Ukraine. Orange is also a colour symbolising aggression – a form of a visible manifestation, contrasting with grey.
During many years, Dudek also amassed an archive of photographs published in underground zines and on internet forums. They form the Too Close For Comfort series, which also shows photo snippets from police archives, showing the artist as a member of the events of the time. The documents confirm the authenticity of his adolescent actions, which today is a matter of artistic interventions connected to the aesthetisation of violence.
In his large-format collages Dudek undertakes the issues of the architecture of the spectacle, working on reconstructing specific events, in which the very buildings and sport events determine the crowd’s behaviour. The stadium is the society’s true Theatrum Mundi, a place which is almost always at the centre of a large-city community (for example the Roman Coliseum, London’s Wembley and Warsaw’s National Stadium), where hooligan riots interweave with the colourful setting’s choreography’s beauty.
Dudek analyses the crowd’s psychology by using the language of visual abstraction. The attentiveness to detail is supposed to identify the anonymous mass, giving in to uncontrollable emotions. The collages cut with a knife aestheticise anarchy and violence and recapture the state of aggression under the form of a multi-image. They are mostly black and white and resemble an x-ray photograph of a crowd. They become an anatomical study and examine the essence of chosen events, for example the aggression of a crowd storming building constructions or planned riots in the city and stadium space. In his works, Dudek introduces the structure of specific buildings, such as Heysel and Hillsborough, which went down in 20th century’s history not thanks to sports, but due to tragic events. They were the scene for the moment in which the audience became the spectacle’s main actor. A skeleton looming over the events presented in the Heysel work, foreshadowing the incoming death, is there for a reason. The second work, picturing Hillsborough, presents the multi-layerness of the 1989’s Sheffield events, where, due to an overfilled stadium, the crowd was crushed. Furthermore, it also visualises the crushed crowd’s dramatic screams, which is why it also works on senses other than sight.
The entirety of the collage’s composition has an abstract form, which shows the perspective of a singular behaviour in the crowd and architectural space. His works touch upon political-historical and universal issues of the out-of-control crowd’s unpredictability. In this way, similar as in his performances, Dudek deconstructs the idea of aggression, which, often unconsciously, is unleashed in the space of the given architecture.
Originally written in Polish by Przemysław Strożek, November 2017, translated by Patryk Grabowski, November 2017
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