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Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

Marwencol: A model WWII-era town is the backdrop for an unfolding narrative

In Excerpts, Thoughts on May 22, 2011 at 6:50 am

Model building, I once thought, was just the tedium of young 4Hers across the country, a 20th-century hobby for kids with too much patience and parents who wouldn’t buy them video games. I didn’t play a lot of video games as a kid, but I didn’t put together many models either. I got bored even with rockets, which only had about five pieces, plus a handful of decals to slick on to the shaft and the nose cone. But for Mark Hogancamp, model building became an alternate reality—after his was violently destroyed.

“After being beaten into a brain-damaging coma by five men outside a bar,” writes the maker of a film about Mark, “Mark [built] a 1/6th scale World War II-era town in his backyard.” He named the town Marwencol, and filled it with action figures representing his friends and family. Mark then began photographing the town, which became a set for the unfurling dramas that played out among the pseudo-fictional townspeople.

Wired ran a story on Mark, explaining more:

“When Hogancamp emerged from a 9-day coma, he had no language, he could not walk and he could not eat without assistance. For twelve months, the ex-Navy man received state-sponsored physical and occupational therapy and regained many of his motor skills. Without medical insurance, however, Hogancamp was soon unable to afford the treatments. Lacking conventional rehabilitation, Hogancamp devised his own.

In Marwencol, Hogancamp’s avatar, Hogie, is assassinated and brought back to life by the town witch. He is tortured by the S.S. and then rescued at the last minute by three gun-toting women. Hogie is saved in a way Hogancamp could not be in real life. In place of real-world counselors and therapists, Hogancamp has created hundreds of imaginary ones.”

I haven’t seen the film yet, but I’m fascinated by this built-environment therapy. Could the world’s wounded recover more quickly and more completely if they too could build a fictional place in which to work out the effects of their trauma? Or is Mark an isolated case, where his interests and talent met the violence of the attack in an irreplicable rehabilitation?

Perhaps I’ll post a follow-up after I see the movie. In the meantime, check out the Wired story and the documentary’s website.

Northern Europe Migrants Organisation

In Excerpts, Thoughts on May 14, 2011 at 11:42 pm

Is it possible to determine the size of a website, or its placement among the seemingly infinite and erratic pages inhabiting this mysterious non-space? If so, it is an infinitesimal nook that N.E.M.O. occupies, tucked away—and necessarily so—in some back corner of the Internet.

N.E.M.O. is the Northern European Migrants Organisation, a group helping ferry immigrants to the UK and using what appear to be old World War II bunkers to do it. A trip from Calais to the British Coast costs 290 euros.

The whole thing is a fiction actually, created by architecture students Felix de Montesquiou and Hugo Kaici. But they created the Web portal and everything; the ticket shown above was my confirmation for the boat that left yesterday. My seat was 1D. I was able to get English lessons while en route.

But the point of it was to focus on designing the “locus of the organisation within the architectural vocabulary of the WW2 bunker to camouflage the real function of this secret base.” I’d say they succeeded.

Also, on the website, they’ve posted a catalog of real WWII bunkers they used for inspiration. Check it out, and while you’re at it, book your trip to freedom.

Freezing the Chicago River for a month-long frost fair

In Excerpts, Thoughts on April 25, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Pruned, a blog I’ve recently stumbled upon, began a series last June called “(Im)possible Chicago.” Each is essentially an alternate version of the Windy City, the collection “a series of hallucinatory joyrides through one hundred and twenty five asynchronous Chicagos,” as blog author Alexander Trevi puts it.

Most move a little too quickly to truly compel. They feel like the creative writing exercises of a college sophomore—too neatly odd, too contained by one new idea. All plot and no character development.

But I liked one: (Im)possible Chicago #3: Forever Open, Free & Clear v2.0. Trevi writes:

“Over a century since retail magnate A. Montgomery Ward sounded the battle cry to defend the city’s mandate to keep its lakefront a public common that is “forever open, clear and free of any buildings, or other obstructions whatever,” a similar call to arms was made for the Chicago River, to make it forever free of industries, private developments and sewage.

… Not every building was cleared away, but at least now one can stroll the entire length of the river. In fact, starting at any point, you can walk or bike or jog uninterrupted on both banks. … Along the way, you might encounter kayaking parties setting off from mini-harbors, anglers, community theaters staging avant-garde interpretations of The Odyssey, and triathletes in training. … Every four years, the entire river is artificially frozen for a monthlong frost fair.”

It was the last image I enjoyed most. Growing up in rural Kansas, near a creek that did often freeze over, I can imagine the joy and awe Chicagoans would have if their river were completely frozen over, able to be crossed, played on, skated down—from a family’s home in Ravenswood all the way to State Street.

It wouldn’t be inconceivable. We dye it green once a year. We can freeze it every four.