Marcin Dudek is an artist who creates performances, installations, objects, and collages. He was born in 1979 and lives and works in Brussels and Kraków.
In his artistic practice, he mostly creates situations based on a confrontation between the world of violence and the world of art. To do this, he often invokes the history of events at sporting stadiums and events in his own life back from when he was a member of a football fan club. 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 such a 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 group, Poland was still undergoing system-wide transformation. It was a time of rising criminality on local estates and of the growth of influential groups of hooligans. 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 these groups appropriating and hijacking the public space.
In his performances, Dudek returns to the period when he was engaged in the 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 artistic space.
Other performances conducted in Belgium and England – Wild (2013), Saved by an Unseen Crack (2015), and 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 football 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, nationalism, and 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 us to view these types of behaviours differently from when 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.
polish contemporary art
One of the objects most used by Dudek is a military jacket turned inside-out, revealing the orange inner lining. In the 1990s, this jacket was very popular among football fans. Today, in Eastern Europe, orange functions as a token of opposing those in power and the 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 Colliseum, London’s Wembley, and Warsaw’s National Stadium), where hooligan riots interweave with the colourful setting’s choreographic 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 multiple 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 a construction site or planned riots in the city and stadium area. In his works, Dudek introduces the structure of specific buildings, such as Heysel and Hillsborough, which went down in 20th-century history not thanks to sports but due to tragic events. They were the scene for the moment in which the audience became the play’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 multilayeredness of the 1989 events in Sheffield, where, due to an overcrowded 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 to 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
Selected Solo Exhibitions:
2017 – Przesilenia, BWA Katowice, Poland; 10 Summer Afterimages, Galeria Leto, Warsaw, Poland; Dallas Art Fair, Harlan Levey Projects, Dallas, US; Art Central Hong Kong, Yeo Workshop, Hong Kong; ZonaMaco, Harlan Levey Projects, Mexico City, Mexico; In/Out, Greylight Projects, Belgium
2016 – Imprints, Harlan Levey Projects, Belgium; The Earth Is Our Radio,Karts, Plymouth, UK; Bazaar Art Jakarta, Yeo Workshop, Jakarta, Indonesia; Art Brussels, Harlan Levey Projects, Brussels, Belgium; Dallas Art Fair, Harlan Levey Projects, Dallas, US
2015 – No Matter How, Round and Square, Sala Projeto Fidalga, São Paulo, Brazil; Wall & Mass, Officielle Fiac, Edel Assanti, Paris, France; Revers de Trompe, Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Vienna, Austria; One way or another – investiga–se o ISSO, Platforma Revólver, Lizbon, Portugal; Department of Subterranea, Art Brussels, Harlan Levey Projects, Belgium; Borders in Motion, Sculpture Project, Dallas Art Fair, Dallas, US; Department of Subterranea, Art Los Angeles Contemporary, Edel Assanti, Los Angeles, US
2014 – Deformation Der Stille, Galerie 5020, Austria; I Wish I Had a River, Harlan Levey Projects, Brussels, Belgium; All My Scars, Art Brussels, Harlan Levey Projects, Belgium; Anywhere Out of My Worl, The Loft, Brussels, Belgium; Big Inch, Dallas Art Fair, Edel Assanti, Dallas, US; Wild, Art Rotterdam, Edel Assanti, Netherlands;
2013 – Park + Ride, Verbeke Foundation, Belgium, Subterranea Mondial, Art Brussels, Waterside Contemporary, Belgium;
2012 – Diagrammatic Form, Banner Repeater, London, UK; Subject to Change, Deconstruction Project, Southend on Sea, UK; Polish Contemporary Arts, Rich Mix, London, UK; At least the “theme” for the moment..., Quase Galeria, Porto, Portugal; Kopalnia i Fantom, Bunkier Sztuki Contemporary Art Gallery, Kraków, Poland; Things That Have Interested Me, Waterside Contemporary, London, UK; Now&After12, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Moscow, Russia; Snapshot, Galerie Nadine Feront, Brussels, Belgium; Winter Pavilion, Waterside Contemporary, London, UK;
2011 – Exico, 16th Biennial of Cerveira, Portugal; Cellar Television, Vienna Art Fair ,Waterside Contemporary, Austria; I Will Eat This Sleepy Town, Waterside Project Space London, UW; Project of Absorbing the Other, Galerie8, London, UK;
2009 – Art in an Ephemeral Age, The Art Festival at Hay, UK; XV Bienal de Cerveira Vila Nova de Cerveira, Portugal; Transfer, Galeria Sub–Carturesti Bucharest, Romania;
2008 – Visions in the Nunnery, The Nunnery Gallery, London, UK; Pumping Station, London, UK;
2007 – Out of the frying Pan into the Fire, Espace Uhoda Liege, Belgium; 11.472, Bargehouse Oxo Tower Wharf, London, UK;
2006 – Multiplier, Whiteclub Space Salzburg, Austria; Identikit, Temporary Contemporary Gallery London, UK;
2005 – Blick A Blick B, Curated by Tanja Widmann and Johannes Porsch, Salzburger Kunstverain, Salzburg, Austria; Blachowo bzw. Prowizorycznie, Schloss Goldegg Goldegg, Austria