Saturday, January 22, 2011


Last night M & I saw this terrific documentary called Marwencol about this man who was attacked in a vicious fight and suffered brain damage and memory loss. As part of his own rehabilitation, he creates scenes with dolls and photographs them. He created a 1/16th scale town he called "Marwencol" and peopled it with the alter egos of himself and people he knows.
Eventually it's revealed that he was the victim of a hate crime, and it becomes clear that he suffers from massive anxiety and fear. What's interesting is the story that's not told - the hate crime, the failure of his therapy and recovery, his ex-wife and the extent of his brain damage.

His art and life are virtually inseparable, where he refers to his doll alter-ego as himself, and seems to have an obsessive love for the Barbie characters that interact with his doll-figure. What he would be considered in art terms is an "Untrained artist", or the less popular "Naïve artist", which generally means, as you might imagine, that he's not a trained artist (before his attack, he drew cartoon-y, R. Crumb-y type images, but afterward his hand shook too badly to draw) and that his work is little influenced by current or past artists. The uniqueness of his work stems mainly, as the editor or art magazine Esopus states, from its complete lack of irony, which is generally overwhelming in most work of this nature (including my own!) His earnestness and naïvité extends to his relationships with women, with whom he clearly has some issues. To wit, he creates "staged cat-fights" with the Barbie-doll characters in his bar in his town, going to great lengths to clarify that they are "staged."

What's a bit disturbing is how violent some of the images are, especially as concerns his own attack. In his little town, Nazis attack his character and torture him, similar to his own injuries, and then he exacts horrifying revenge on them. He drags a small tank full of heavily-armed characters with him just about everywhere he goes, and it becomes clear that it's because he's relying on them for protection. Ultimately, his doll character drags along a small-scale doll of his own to deal with his attack by the Nazis.

It's unlikely that this movie is going to be in wide release, but watch out for it in festivals near you. You can also see a fair amount of his photographs on, which also has some clips from the movie.

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