Artist: Marcin Dudek
Title: Slash & Burn II
Venue: Harlan Levey Projects 1080, Brussels, Belgium
Photo: Damon De Backer, all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Harlan Levey Projects, Brussels
Slash & Burn II is the story of a passage; from childhood to adulthood, from communism to capitalism, and from hooligan to artist. Marcin Dudek was just ten years old and living in a housing block outside Krakow when the Berlin Wall finally toppled. It was followed by Poland’s freefall into capitalism as the country reeled from severe shortages, skyrocketing inflation, and now-defunct industry. A frayed social fabric lacking civic associations left children vulnerable to new allegiances. As a preteen Dudek was swept up by Cracovia, one of Krakow’s two viciously sparring soccer fan clubs, whose uniform (shared by other clubs across Eastern Europe) was a black bomber jacket with bright orange lining. Members would collectively turn their jackets inside out in the stadium to signal they were ready to brawl. Like the strike of a match, the blazing orange lining would be revealed, and all hell would break loose. Tied together by unseen bonds, each member of the group was a pawn to the larger mission, acting as one force. One can feel the physical power of the bodies that crowded the stands through their jackets alone, as witnessed in Dudek’s monumental installation, Passage. As a testament to the impact of the switch to capitalism in Eastern Europe and the resulting survival economy, hundreds of jackets sent from the West to the East were collected from thrift shops and brought back to the West to be stitched together, creating a monumental coat which envelops, shields, and takes over the viewer. As one ducks to walk through the sleeve and into the path laid out for them, a series of three meticulously-crafted hybrids between collage and painting become visible, all using the jacket and its ability to hold memory, violence, and meaning. Orange lines burnt into the walls on either side of this trilogy are signs of Dudek’s performance during the build-up of the exhibition, which baptized the gallery with a smoke grenade like the ones used in his youth. Following this trail, the viewer is brought into a small room with one single padlocked work. When opened, we find a testimony to a life of crime, imprisonment, and self-preservation; the path that Dudek himself would have taken had art not allowed him an escape route.
Excerpt from Amanda Sarroff’s essay “The Passage”
“Slash & Burn II (The Passage)” features an immersive textile installation and four monumental mixed-media paintings.