Marcin Dudek (PL, º1979)

Cathedral of Human Labour

Leading out from an inconspicuous spot beside the Belgian motorway in Kemzeke, this underground sculpture provides a permanently open hidden passageway into the grounds of the Verbeke Foundation. Cathedral of Human Labour (2014) is a cheerfully collaged piece of land art, built from approximately 60 tons of wood initially used as temporary supports for the concrete construction of a railway tunnel in the infrastructure of Antwerp harbour.

The tunnel’s warped and seemingly rough interior is claustrophobically reminiscent of trenches, narco-tunnels, passages of flight. It echoes the state of mental turbulence encountered at border controls, and refers to earlier works constructed with tape. The walls have a distinctly sculptural quality. Each carefully composed metre can be perceived as a collage in itself. While some parts call Gothic cathedrals or Expressionist architecture to mind, others seem to be collapsing or frozen in movement, as if a revolving door were about to open. Inside there is also a sealed door, waiting for Dudek to remove it and continue excavating as the work is extended.

[. . .] work, and the massive experience of it, is right at the centre of our living culture, considered as a way of life. Work is a living and active area of human involvement – it makes, and is made by, us. It affects the general social nature of our lives in the most profound ways.’

Paul E. Willis, Human Experience and Material Production: The Culture of the Shop Floor, Stencilled Occasional Paper, Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, University of Birmingham, 1975, p. 3.