Marcin Dudek | The Group: Exhibition at Kunsthal Extra City | Antwerp, Belgium

13 May - 8 October 2023
The Group is the first institutional solo exhibition in the Benelux by Marcin Dudek (PL, 1979). Dudek brings together visual works and installations around the central themes of crowd psychology and the spectacle. 
  • The Group

    Kunsthal Extra City - Curated by Joachim Naudts

    The Group is the first institutional solo exhibition in the Benelux by Marcin Dudek (PL, 1979). Dudek brings together visual works and installations around the central themes of crowd psychology and the spectacle.  Informed by his violent youth, spent among hooligans, Dudek's work has been imbued with questions about safety and violence, group dynamics, family, but above all about our urge to belong.


    Dudek grew up in the suburbs of Kraków in Poland as a child of the in-between generation. Hooliganism proved the ideal escape for youngsters caught between the late days of communism and the rise of hyper-capitalism. The street was Dudek's living room and he soon became absorbed by the paramilitary group around football club KS Cracovia. There he found a group identity that transcended the dreariness of the apartment blocks of his area.


    Dudek took leave of that close-knit brotherhood at the age of twenty-one and threw himself into art with an enormous dedication. His work reads like a continuous autobiographical dialogue with that past and focuses on the rituals of his former subculture. Using many found and reused materials, he creates installations that exude a clear DIY attitude. The physical labour is part of his artistic process and often departs from an obsessive work ethic. Recurring motifs are hoodies and bomber jackets - clothing that may instil fear in outsiders but, paradoxically, a sense of safety and belonging in the wearer. Dudek's recurring use of metal and fences also shares these conflicting emotions.


    The Group brings together seven complex works in the neo-Gothic, former Dominican church.  The orange scorch marks that can be seen here and there are remnants of an intervention Dudek carried out on the opening night with a flare.  Partly accentuated by the church's religious architecture, a multitude of themes emerge: the human yearning for security, the structural similarities between religion and football, the de- and constructive nature of group dynamics and the constant human desire for spectacle.

  • The Protectionist Reflex

    Performance view, Kunsthal Extra City, Antwerp, Belgium, May 2023. Photo: Gert Jochems.

    The Protectionist Reflex

    Behind The Group is The Protectionist Reflex, a kinetic work that starts rattling now and then  as if by itself.  For supporters, the fence becomes the focal point of their aggression. But who is this architectural element actually supposed to protect or stop? A fence promises security, but above all it becomes the symbol of a battle of opposites.


    For Marcin Dudek, this freestanding stadium fence represents a battery for negative, accumulated energy.  Pent-up frustrations are directed through the fence at the authorities, the system and those in power.  The regular and unpredictable outbursts are an attack on the state apparatus, of which the fence is essentially a part.

  • Tablica


    Tablica is a triptych consisting of 409 small panels. Each panel is filled with photographs and documents about criminal trials against various football gangs in Krakow: portraits of gang members, prison guards, butterfly knives, architectural plans of stadiums and prisons, and numerous objects used in court cases. Marcin Dudek and his brother belonged to one of the supporters' clubs that became increasingly violent and criminal in the 1990s. Much information was leaked and members turned on each other during interrogations in exchange for reduced sentences.


    Tablica offers a personal testimony from the artist's perspective. The collages - perhaps presented as an act of atonement - are connected by medicinal tape, which is a direct reference to wounds and healing.  As a triptych, the work is inspired by the tradition of medieval altarpieces and thus has a clear religious character. Football gangs are built on the 'sacred' belief that the group is higher than the self.  That is, until the freedom of the individual is at stake and betrayal becomes the only way out.  Once opened out, the triptych has the dimensions of Dudek's brother's prison cell.

    Dudek's artistic practice is a way of dealing with physical and psychological wounds. Tablica is a testimony to his experiences and illustrates a process of healing that is not yet complete.

  • Central Contact

    Marcin Dudek. Central Contact (detail), 2022. Steel, aluminium, paper, wood, silicon, foam, motor, 4 channels surveillance camera system, LED screen, textiles, floodlight. Installation view at Kunsthal Extra City, Antwerp, Belgium, 2023. Photo: We Document Art.

    Central Contact

    On the altar is the complex work Central Contact, a skeletal cage consisting of two parts that together are the same size as the bedroom the artist grew up in. The pieces of metal welded together here were reclaimed by the artist from factories and stadiums.  On one side is an inaccessible and slowly rotating miniature football stadium with four security cameras pointed at it.  The shape of the arena is an unusual collage of different architectural forms, including the Colosseum, Stonehenge and the stadium of KS Cracovia. On the other side, hidden behind a wooden wall, is a control room with 'live' images on a television screen.


    Spiralling into each other are images of anonymous, sleeping faces, football flags, various autobiographical elements and politicians such as Erdoğan and Reagan.  In addition to the TV screen, there are two one-way mirrors, which provide a discreet view of the other side.  However, only the video footage shows what is really happening inside the stadium.  Dudek's viewing room reveals the secret of its own artifice, thus questioning the spectacle of the stadium.  It also draws attention to its reality: at the entrance to the stadium is a turnstile studded with 1,320 nails, each nail representing a life lost in a football disaster.

  • The Guardians

    Marcin Dudek. The Guardian, 2021.  Oil paint, image transfer, medical tape, and uv varnish on wood and aluminium, 160 x 120 cm. Installation view at Kunsthal Extra City, Antwerp, Belgium, 2023. Photo: We Document Art.

    The Guardians

    Hidden in a niche next to the altar you will find The Guardians, a recent collage made with oil and acrylic paint and photographs transferred on medicinal tape. The work focuses on the paradoxical relationship between the Catholic Church and hooliganism in Poland. The collage shows a constellation of churches from near where Dudek was living in Kraków. Priests occupied a strange position in the community there: they functioned largely as businessmen who made money from important life events such as births and deaths.


    Due to the conservative views of the Catholic Church, they quickly declined in popularity and priests came to rely on hooligans for physical protection. For example, church doors were literally guarded during demonstrations against strict anti-abortion legislation, which was strongly supported by the religious powers. In exchange, the hooligans' (violent) sins were forgiven and they were blessed. At the centre of The Guardians is an image of one such blessing. 

  • Marcin Dudek. Corps de Ballet, 2023. Installation view at Kunsthal Extra City, Antwerp, Belgium, 2023. Video: Paulius Sliaupa.
  • Corps de Ballet Corps de Ballet

    Corps de Ballet

    At the very back of the exhibition, in the high but narrow priests choir, Dudek presents his latest series of sculptures.  These papier-mâché torsos are composed of shredded words taken from used copies of the Bible, football magazines, monographs on Dudek's own work and zines on art history; information that shaped the young artist and his peers.


    In these works, paper pulp was hardened into sculptures in which anatomy and architecture become one.  They recall physical wounds and although they are individual sculptures, here they are grouped together and named after ballerinas who move in a coordinated manner to create the illusion of one single body.  This choreography references the movements of Dudek and his comrades in the stadium and the performative staging of their actions.

  • Performance view, Kunsthal Extra City, Antwerp, Belgium, May 2023. Filmed by Paulius Sliaupa.


    The Group

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