Welcome to Marwencol
Mark E. Hogancamp
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In April 2000, Mark Hogancamp was beaten and left for dead outside a bar in his hometown of Kingston, NY. Waking from a nine-day coma, he had no memory of the thirty-eight prior years of his life, including his ex-wife, family, artistic talents, or military service. To reconstruct his past, Hogancamp built, in his backyard, Marwencol, an imaginary village set in World War II Belgium, where everybody is welcome—Germans, Americans, French, British, and Russians—as long as peace is kept. With 1:6 scale action figures and Barbie dolls, as well as toy armaments and meticulously built props, buildings, and clothes, Marwencol is an alternate reality, created with painstaking (and sometimes painful) realism and obsessive attention to detail.
Here, riveting wartime dramas are played out and photographed in saturated hues and unflinching detail. The emotional narrative mirrors the artist's own: through Marwencol, Hogancamp regained his cognitive facilities.
Welcome to Marwencol is an astonishing story of the redemptive power of art—of art as therapy and act of obsession.
parlor E. Dr. F. Shimkets Built: 2007 Two-story medical facility F. The Bank of Marwencol Built: 2008 Official financial institution of Marwencol G. Stoffel-Navarro Park Dedicated: 2009 Marwencol’s main town park H. Tonjes’s Furniture Built: 2007 Tonjes’s furniture workshop and apartment I. Hogancamp’s Red Ball Express Built: 2007 Vehicle-repair shop J. Marwencol’s Gas Station Built: 2006 Refueling station for Marwencol’s vehicles K. Federal Cancer Research Built: 2002 Second-floor
stick figure; Mom wore a triangle dress and had corkscrew hair. But Mark’s drawing was different. For a start, his parents actually looked like people. They had fleshy arms and realistic faces. They were also totally naked. Paul had a penis and Edda had breasts. Mark’s teacher was concerned, but Edda, who had more European sensibilities, found it charming. “I realized very early that Mark was creative and different,” she said. “And I mean ‘different’ in a good way. He was interested in things
// The Germans grew more annoyed with the townspeople by the minute. Every time the soldiers demanded that someone show them where they were—where Marwencol was—on the map, the people said, ‘I don’t know.’ // So the soldiers ate whatever they wanted, took whatever they wanted, and did whatever they felt like doing in the town. When they finished, they started killing the elders of the town. Then they killed the men. And then they raped and killed the young women. // When the SS were finished
College / 27 Edda—See “Eller, Edda Hogancamp” Eller, Edda Hogancamp / 24, 25, 30, 40, 46, 47, 54, 55, 65, 80, 94, 97, 104, 130, 161, 192, 193, 203, 250, 255 Esopus magazine / 14, 15, 64, 65, 131, 255 eye prosthesis / 37, 41, 250 Father Raymond Bradbury / 97 Federal Cancer Center / 77, 93, 104, 105 G. L.—See “Green Leader (G. L.)” gas station / 93, 108, 109 Ghost of Marwencol—See “Hayden, the Ghost of Marwencol” Giant of Marwencol / 121, 130, 236–43, 245–49 Ginsberg, Dr. Joel / 37
being sentenced to jail. D. A 1995 self-portrait of Mark homeless, sleeping in the woods. Five years later, Mark left the military with an honorable discharge. Trapped at home with a wife he barely knew and no military regimen to keep his mind occupied, he began to drink heavily. Anastasia’s frustration grew. Eventually she left him, and Mark’s life started on a bumpy downward spiral. In the early 1990s, Mark found a good job building showrooms for trade shows but soon lost it. He took out his