03 June 2019 Marcin Dudek’s exhibition The Crowd Man combines an autobiographical narrative with a statement about crowd psychology, aggression and violence. These two elements remain crucial for the artist’s questions about how violence and aggression affect the relationships between people and what mechanisms trigger them.
Marcin Dudek, 'The Crowd Man', 2019, performance, Wroclaw, Poland
In the second half of the 1990s, as a teenager, Dudek belonged to a group of dedicated supporters of Cracovia, a football club from Cracow. He took an active part in stadium life and hooliganism. Those experiences return in his art in the form of personal reminiscences and borrowings. At the exhibition, the artist uses his own case study to cast a broader look at the relationship between an individual and a crowd. He shows a system that is simultaneously based on understanding and conflict. While an individual disappears in a crowd by succumbing to its norms, he also draws strength from the collective. In this feedback loop, power and rivalry are as important as fear and alienation.
Marcin Dudek filters the emotions of the crowd through his own experiences, and the sports stadium becomes the main area of his activity. Known since antiquity as a venue for mass entertainment events, in the artist’s actions this architectural form epitomises the crowd, power, and phenomena such as violence or tragedy. It also remains a synonym for the society of the spectacle.
Elias Canetti, an Austrian writer, in his essay Crowds and Power declared that loneliness and alienation of the individual lie that at the basis of all human behaviour in social life. It is the fear of losing identity, solitude and marginalisation that may lead to fanaticism and dictatorship.
At the exhibition, the artist refers to extreme events that took place at sports stadiums and combines them with personal experiences. His story is a tale about the struggle of an individual absorbed by a crowd that seduces and enslaves him like a plague.
Marcin Dudek (b. 1979) studied at the Mozarteum University in Salzburg and Central Saint Martins in London. He mostly uses installations and objects, often combining them with performance. His works have been shown by many institutions and during artistic events around the world, including Manifesta 12, Kunstlerhaus in Salzburg, Arad Art Museum, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, NADA Miami and Art Central Hong Kong. In his artistic practice, he usually creates situations based on the confrontation of the world of violence with the world of art. For this purpose, he often refers to past events at stadiums or recalls themes from a time when he belonged to the environment of football fans. He lives in Brussels.