Marcin Dudek – Head in the Sand


The sprawling cement housing blocks on the outskirts of big cities like Krakow in the 1990s had their own characteristic vibe and subculture. The boys of Podgórze would often run away from home, fast on the trail of Cracovia’s away games, straight into the fights and fisticuffs between warring football fanatics, and personal vendettas. For some, these are the most poignant mementoes of that period. Boys from the hood, football matches, alcohol and exploits that verged on the criminal were irresistible, shaping a very particular world-view for the young people growing up here. The passage of time was marked by every match played by the favored team, each trip taken to see them play in another city – it was all noted scrupulously in a special notebook. These gangs of young men would convene on a regular basis, boisterously celebrating their team’s win, or descending into total chaos when they lost. They would destroy everything in their wake, smashing everything that didn’t fit in with their narrowly-focused world-view.

As with any addiction, one would always need a bigger fix to get high, and these acts of aggression and violence became increasingly risky. Many of these young men would end up dead or in jail. At some point, they all came to a crossroads. The only choices they seemed to have were to stay mired in this reality, waiting for jail, injury or death. Or to abandon it all entirely. But how else Would these young men satisfy their craving for adrenaline-packed action?

This is the world that Marcin Dudek came from. He came upon a collection of journals on “Great Painters” that was something of a classic at the time. And he became awestruck. Hiding out in his room, he began making copies of famous works of art. He isolated himself from his group of friends, transforming his small bedroom into his first studio, which served as a refuge, but also as a prison. He managed to get enrolled in a university art program in Austria and that was the start of his life as an artist.

The exhibition “Head in the Sand” follows on Marcin Dudek’s series of earlier shows, in which he attempts reconciling himself with the past as a young football fanatic. The focus on autobiographical themes of a delinquent youth have been documented in three of the artist’s performances (“Wild” in 2013, “Saved by an Unseen Crack” in 2015 and “We Stumbled as we Clambered” in 2015). In Dudek’s personal pursuits as an artist, he reveals a critical stance towards the structures of the contemporary art world, its politics, power plays and coalitions, which can also be considered as a slightly more refined version of the relationships between football fanatics and their methods of reckoning.

The most significant aspect of the exhibition is a precise rendition of the artist’s bedroom in the Krakow apartment house – a recreation of the space that served as the starting point for the rest of his life. It isn’t a static space – it is here that Dudek became an artist. It was a sanctuary that is a significant symbol for his transformation. Through his performative actions, the artist places an emphasis on the active aspects of the workshop-space. His acts of aggression and violence of the past activate this space, which, in turn, responds and adapts – it is actualized two-fold. The destructive intensity that marked his youth changes this room into an installation in which paint splattered on the walls becomes a painterly manifestation. The vulgarity of the past collides with the creative intentions of the present, creating a complete picture of Marcin Dudek, the artist.

Blue paint, pigment and smoke are incorporated by the artist in homage to the legacy of Edward Krasiński and his blue line. This iconic symbol also takes on thuggish proportions within Dudek’s particular vision. He coats everything in paint, making no distinction between the walls, pictures, everyday objects and valuables. Everything is a backdrop to his unstoppable march forward. Just like a crowd of frenzied fanatics, he mercilessly spreads his great wave of blue over everything that comes in his way. Rather than copy Krasiński’s gesture, he’s recasting it as his own aggressive gesture. The football club’s colors are the most vital signifier that basically demands “Are you with us or against us?”

The next exhibition hall features a punching bag, made by hand out of an old leather jacket – DIY gym training in a small apartment. Inside it’s stuffed with shredded clippings from “Great Painters” and fanzines. Two sources drawing upon two entirely disparate subject matters are mashed together in a clump of different lexicons, customs and cultures. Through their concurrent destruction, these two distinct registers are unified. The destructive force dealt by the artist also destroyed the gulf that separated the two – rendering that distance negligible through that very force. Once again, these two distinct phases in Marcin Dudek’s life are juxtaposed in a way that makes them inseparable, giving his idea a physical embodiment and shaping the path for his future as an artist.

The solidarity forged among football fans isn’t only apparent in the camaraderie exhibited during matches, aggression and violence. This group manifests their affinity through the colors their wear, their clothing, and also by the visual culture of the slogans and images they produce and propagate – photographs, stickers and postcards. One of the walls of the exhibition space is covered in such “postcards,” magnified and arranged as a whole. The strong language and expressions are full of aggression, woven through with fascist underpinnings. On the opposite wall there is a collage surrounded by a metal barrier, which looks a lot like the scene of a battle seen from a bird’s eye-view. There are clumps of smoke coming out of its center and filtering into the actual space of the gallery – everything is muggy, the air heavy and thick. The curtain of smoke builds a distance between the viewer and the visual aggression manifesting itself throughout the exhibition. But the post-battle pandemonium is still rampant as Dudek brings the adrenaline and fear of his past into the perceived safety of an art space.


Opening of the exhibition: December 5th (Saturday), 2015 | at 6:00 pm

7:00 pm – performance by Marcin Dudek
8:00 pm – preformance by Siegfried Zaworka

Marcin Dudek’s performance consists of the active engagement of the artist within the context of the installation/reconstruction of his room in a Krakow apartment block. The room served as both his bedroom and his art studio. His directs his aggressive gestures towards a space that was his first and primary abode, but also a space of isolation. In conducting this intervention within the piece, Dudek shifts and manipulates its structure, which, in turn, then begins to actively participate in the creative process.

Marcin Dudek
b. 1979 in Krakow. Lives and works in Brussels and Krakow.
After leaving Poland aged 21, Marcin Dudek studied at the University of Art Mozarteum, Salzburg, and Central Saint Martins, London, graduating in 2005 and 2007 respectively. His work has been exhibited internationally at institutions including Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Kunstlerhaus, Salzburg, the Arad Art Museum, Bunkier Sztuki and the Goethe Institute, Kiev. His installation “The Cathedral of Human Labor”, 2013, in on permanent view at the Verbeke Foundation in Antwerp.


Siegfried Zaworka aka SMEGMAGNOM plays synthesizer, drum kit and his voice simultaneously. The performance AUA- LAIT for the exhibition HEADS IN THE SAND is generated out of loosely rivited musical motives, ranging from manic/ecstatic to downtrodden and depressive. Bipolar in the basis, the Olé,Olé,Olé song serves as a rudimentary common musical greeting of anger ridden bliss.

Siegfried Zaworka
b. 1972 in Wolfsberg. Lives and works in Vienna.
Austrian artist and musician. In his performances simultaneously uses various instruments and equipment (drums, organ, synthesizers, etc.). He studied at the University of Art Mozarteum, Salzburg and Universität für angewandte Kunst in Vienna. His works and performances have been presented, among others, at Lust Gallery in Vienna, Kunstverein in Salzburg, White Box, in Munich, Waterside Contemporary and The Others in London.

curator: Sebastian Gawłowski

partners of the exhibition:
Harlan Levey Projects
Budner Development