Painting, Sculpting and Modelling for Games.

Monday 18 April 2011

Inglorious Barbies

I just watched “Marwencol”, a documentary by Jeff Malmberg about the work and life of Mark Hogancamp. At some point, a character in the movie says that Mark’s work is so amazing that he had to share it. I agree with that, particularly sharing it with people reading that blog who will be particularly interested in the hobby side of the documentary.

Marwencol is a real place, even if it exists mostly in the imagination of Mark Hogancamp. The fictional Belgian World War II town was born after the artist nearly died 10 years ago, beaten by five men who attacked the Kingston, N.Y., resident at a local bar. When he awoke from a coma nine days later, he recalled, "All the connections were broken." A talented illustrator who also was, in his words, "a half-gallon a day drunk," Mr. Hogancamp lost his drawing skills, much of his memory and his thirst for booze. But then he picked up an old Pentax K-1000 camera, loaded it with 35mm film he could buy at a store two blocks from his home, and started building his own little world, using scrap wood left behind at a construction site. Mark populates the town he dubs "Marwencol" with dolls representing his friends and family and creates life-like photographs detailing the town's many relationships and dramas.

Playing in the town and photographing the action helps Mark to recover his hand-eye coordination and deal with the psychic wounds of the attack. When Mark and his photographs are discovered, a prestigious New York gallery sets up an art show. Suddenly Mark's homemade therapy is deemed "art", forcing him to choose between the safety of his fantasy life in Marwencol and the real world that he's avoided since the attack.

That's the trailer:

Marwencol's galery:

Je viens juste de regarder « Marwencol », un documentaire dirigé par Jeff Malmberg sur le travail et la vie de Mark Hogancamp. Quelqu’un dans le film dit que le travail de Mark était si incroyable qu’il devait le partager avec le plus de personnes possibles. Je suis d’autant plus d’accord que j’espère que les personnes qui lisent ce blog seront sensibles à cette histoire mais aussi à l’aspect hobby du documentaire.

Marvencol existe vraiment, même si ce n’est principalement que dans la tète de Mark Hogancamp. La ville Belge imaginaire est née 10 ans après que l’artiste soit presque mort, battu par cinq hommes à Kingston, N.Y., dans un bar local. Il se réveilla neuf jours plu tard, dans ses propres mots : « Toutes les connections étaient cassées ». Anciennement illustrateur de talent et alcoolique à temps plein, Mr Hogancamp a alors perdu toutes ses capacités à dessiner, la plupart de sa mémoire mais aussi son penchant pour la bouteille. Par chance il tomba sur un vieil appareil à photo Pentax, le chargea de pellicules qu’il pouvait acheter au magasin du coin et commença à créer son propre monde, utilisant des morceaux de bois trouvés sur un site en construction abandonné. Mark appelle sa ville « Marwencol » et la peuple de barbies pour créer des photos hyper réalistes mettant en scène les relations dramatiques des habitants.

Jouer et photographier la ville aide Mark a se rétablir physiquement et mentalement de son attaque. Quand ses photos sont découvertes, une célèbre galerie New Yorkaise organise une exposition. Soudainement la thérapie de Mark se voit estampillée « Art », le forçant à choisir entre le monde imaginaire qu’il a crée et le vrai monde qu’il fuie depuis son attaque.


  1. In a way it´s very sad that he got so badly hurt (and I hope the filth that did that to him got some form of justice fo what they did) but it stopped his drinking and made him into an artist.
    At first, and even after I had read your post i thought the pic of the two marines , the one on the shoulders of the other were from a film clip and that was what the vid would contain...a "flashback" film clip as if he was imagining this but the fact they are action men!!!!
    Great post!! Thanks

  2. Yes, you're right some good came out of it. The movie doesn't relly say what happened to the 5 teenagers who beat him but you get the feeling they got punished. He got beat up because he told those kids he was a cross dresser, kind of let's hammer the gay guy which doesn't add any glory to the whole thing.
    He stopped drinking, so that was good but he already was an artist. There's a part where he's reading his old sketch/artist books not remembering any of it and unable to reproduce any of it neither.
    It's funny you mention the "Flashback" part as he does indeed re-set his attack. He's got his own doll, so does his mum and most people he knows.