by Vatsala SethiDec 30, 2022
It could not be easily refuted that art is a reflection of a creator – a mirror to a personal event or be an epitome of the subjective understanding of the situation. Many a time, the art could serve both the purposes. In the hindsight, creating a piece of art on a not-so-pleasant event could be therapeutic not for the creator, but also beyond the immediate line of audience. Brussels and Kraków based Marcin Dudek, who creates performances, installations, objects, and collages, is one such artist. From the figment of personal memories - when Dudek was a member of the Kraków-based football team, often dubbed as hooligan group - the artist gives shape to his immersive installation and performances.
Finding a parallel between the creative field of art and the aesthetic and tumultuous lifestyle of the past is Dudek’s latest exhibition, Slash and Burn II at HLP 1080 in Brussels, Belgium. The exhibition is the second edition of the three-part series at the newly opened exhibition space by Harlan Levey Projects (HLP). As soon as the Berlin Wall collapsed, capitalism gripped the economic and social life of the people in Poland. The act of violence committed by Dudek is a manifestation of similar consequences - a transition from a communist to a capitalist way of life. During the football matches, the players would turn their bomber jackets inside out – making orange lining visible - to indicate the group would pick up a rowdy brawl. The black bomber jackets with orange lining make their presence felt in the current exhibition through the immersive textile installation and four monumental mixed-media paintings, Passages.
In an interview with STIR, Dudek offers a sneak peek into his artistic journey dotted by personal life events and what led him to transfer private life events to the performance art. "At a certain point it wasn’t a choice. I had ignored my own past for around 10 years in my practice, and in order to be able to deal with the events of my autobiography I had to work through them. Being an artist, the most direct way to do this is through art. Performance is particular because it allows me to slip on this past persona, and to activate the authentic emotions that I felt during this period in my life,” says the Polish artist.
At the intersection of mob psychology, architecture and spectacle, Dudek’s performance in the gallery space is a way of reconciliation between the past and present to avoid such events of violence in the future. With the previous performances such as Wild, Saved by an Unseen Crack, and We Stumbled as We Clambered, Dudek attempts to escape the room of confinement through the props including flare, knife and window still. For his performances, the artist literally breaks through the permanency of the architecture to make the art installations. Unlike the rush of feelings experienced by the mob during the violence, the audience at the gallery faces the aftermaths of the destruction. Distinct to the prompt response to the decay in the real-time situation, Dudek allows his witnesses to gauge the display of broken reality.
Dudek explains, if, and how the performances are determined by the spaces of the gallery, “Performance in itself has a site-specific nature, which is not negligible. The gallery spaces become the parameters of the performance. The architectural frame of the work can be the stadium, but also the gallery. It dictates movement, obstacles, and experience. The performance also triggers the flow of the crowd and movement of bodies”. Moreover, it is not at the exigency of the moment, but during the time of retrospection that the futility of destruction could be fully realised. To tap on the art to reconstruct the effect of violence in the minds of the audience is the aim of a creative exercise led by Dudek.
Through the residues of performances, the objects of installation come into being. Along with these objects of deconstruction is the deep presence of the colour orange. The grenade emitting orange curls of smoke is a part of the performance during the exhibition that leads the viewers to the padlocked work. Dudek explicitly draws the lines of synonymy between the orange hues and acts of violence, “Orange is a colour that was connected to the identity of the hooligan group. It is the colour of the inside of bomber jackets, which were flipped inside-out to signify an escalation of violence. It is also the colour of the sea rescue smoke grenades that we used as part of the stadium choreography. Orange is the colour of visibility - visibility to the police, and visibility of the spectacle of violence.”
The accidental formation of the sculptures or “anti-ready-made” objects as the artist likes to call, even if they carry a hint of immediate destruction, for Dudek is part of a well-thought artistic process. It is over the period of continuous making and remaking of the objects and immersive installation that the audience draws the meaning of the acts of violence. It is the political engagement encouraged by Dudek’s art practice that the audience is triggered to critique the multifaceted consumerist culture and self-deprecating episodes of violence.
The exhibition Slash and Burn II runs at Harlan Levey Projects (HLP) 1080 in Brussels until July 31, 2021.