Nestled behind the bustling Oxford Street, Europe’s busiest shopping street is a small hidden-away gem of a gallery Edel Assanti that exhibits a very dynamic range of contemporary artists from around the world.
The galleries current exhibition ‘Steps and Marches’ by Polish artist Marcin Dudek explores the way people function in a crowd, with their primal instincts, and the mentality that takes over when in a social group. When immersed in a crowd, many individuals will submit to the mass collective thinking and often disregard any moral views they have and follow like sheep whatever the group does.
This particular exhibit delves deep into the mentality of football hooliganism and the extreme lengths hooligans will go to when in a group to commit violent and animalistic acts of aggression.
The artist himself was involved in football hooliganism as a teenager and this exhibit is his way of overcoming the shame associated with what he did and is a collection of his memories reconstructed in a raw and powerful way to highlight the power of group thinking.
As you enter the gallery, you walk through an iron revolving turnstile, just like in a football stadium and enter a brightly lit orange room. The orange symbolises the colour worn by one of the hooligan groups that the exhibit focus on, as they wear these bright colours to distinguish one another while in a brawl at a football match.
The first piece of art that catches the eye, is an Adidas tracksuit covered in white plaster of Paris hanging on the wall. I for one did not understand the concept until it was explained that the artist’s brother was wearing these tracksuit pants when he was stabbed during a football brawl and the pants still have the knife marks in them. So the plaster of Paris symbolises the cast that would have covered the injury. This struck me as a very powerful way of remembering this act of violence against his brother and the subsequent suffering he endured and the lessons he learnt from these violent brawls.
Another piece of art that hit a chord is a sculpture that symbolises the human body, contoured in shape and filled with real rubber bullets that would have been used by Polish police against the hooligans. The metal framework of the sculpture was pierced by these bullets like skin so that the viewer can imagine the real pain and damage inflicted when shot.
One of the artist’s main techniques is using tiny strips of medical tape to create collages and pictures. Several of the pictures attached to this blog post showcase these and the artist explained that it had taken him many months to create each art work. Every piece of tape was meticulously cut by hand and positioned onto the canvas to offer an unusual glimpse into the artist’s memories, attempting to recall his own involvement and responsibility in the hooliganism.
The exhibition is free to the public and open from Tuesday- Saturday 11-6PM until the 4th November 2017. You can find out more on the Edel Assanti website.
Edel Assanti, 74A Newman St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 3DB