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Marcin Dudek: Steps and Marches review

  • Art, Contemporary art
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars
Hooliganism is a dying art form. If you go to a football match in England to start trouble, there are systems in place to make sure you get caught and that you never get to go to a football game again. Our stadiums are safe, welcoming, sanitised. It didn't used to be like that. And in Poland, where Marcin Dudek is from, it was even worse. Dudek was a teenage football hooligan in the '90s, supporting - and fighting for - KS Cracovia in Krakow. He witnessed violence and riots most of us have only ever seen on TV, and his show here feels like a desperate attempt to make sense of his past.

The first thing you see is three tiny photos on the wall, each one framed on a vast canvas of black. They suck you in, forcing you close, the black funnelling your focus towards the tiny images before you realise they're documents of real violence - hooligans clashing with police on the way to a game. Adidas tracksuits, flares, riot shields, prostrate supporters - they're tiny vignettes into beating the crap out of people in the '90s.

The next room is separated by a turnstile. As you pass through, the walls change from white to orange. When hooligans in Poland are ready to fight, they signal it by turning their bomber jackets inside-out - black to orange, a symbol of war through pigmentation. This room forces you onto the defensive, you're mired in the assault.

There's a cracked sheet of glass covered in rubber bullets, a soviet helmet with the inside carved out to look like stadium terraces, a collage of police footage from a stadium riot that Dudek was part of. On the wall, there's an orange balaclava, a tribal mask for brutality. A white pair of Adidas tracksuit bottoms cast out of Jesmonite hangs from the wall, the ones with poppers down by the ankle so you can free up your legs for fighting. It's full of the potential of transformation, from brandname streetwear to hooligan utilitarianism.

Throughout the show, Dudek feels frantic, aggressive in his urge to come to terms with his aggression. This is art about trying to deal with our capacity for violence, for immorality, it's about trying to understand how you can flick in a second between normal everyday life and ultra-violence, about the brutal fringes of mob mentality. It really has nothing to do with football, and everything to do with being human.

Eddy Frankel
Written by
Eddy Frankel


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