Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Village of the Dolls, Garden Centres Out to Get You




Tonight I watched a documentary film called Village of the Dolls, it is about Mark Hogancamp, an American man who built a whole small universe of dolls in his back garden. He does this as a means of expressing something about his life after he was brutally attacked and left severely injured outside a bar. His World War 2 village is called Marwencol and within it he creates scenes that his dolls play out which he then photographs. If you haven’t seen this documentary, it is astounding. Its view of how a man, so badly physically and emotionally damaged by others, struggles to make sense of that event, had me wondering at times whether this was just a voyeuristic look into the life of a man who may not be fully able to protect himself from the intrusion of others. By watching was I colluding with this intrusion? This is of course the old chestnut that is served up with documentaries about vulnerable people but it is still a question I feel I have to at least acknowledge and address. I think the tenderness and poignancy of his work however and his need to talk about it, makes the documentary a study in the triumph of what the human psyche is beautifully capable of when it attempts to heal itself. The fact that Mark is a cross dresser and pours so much of himself into his girl dolls as well as into his alter ego male doll representation, is touching, particularly when placed into the context of the attack which was triggered by his cross dressing Here is a link to a trailer about the documentary which gives you some flavour of it. The one thing I found important about the documentary was Hogancamp’s emphasis on how the building of his world was the way he could make sure that those who beat him so badly could not rob him of his imagination, the thing that made him most himself.

Sunshine has been conspicuous by its presence. Always a good way to feel that soon it will be skies filled with aerobatic swallows and sharpened elbows at the garden centre for bedding plants. I have an intimate knowledge of garden centres as my mother loved them. In the last few years of her life, even when the Alzheimer’s had a firm foothold she would love an afternoon being pushed in her wheelchair down aisle after aisle displaying all things garden . When garden centres embraced coffee shops and crafts, clothes and even pets her joy was complete. We could spend hours moving from hamsters to geraniums, passing jumpers and jigsaws on the way to a frothy coffee and cake. We could also add to her stock of hoarded packets of sugar, sachets of tomato sauce and mustard, she was a contented woman in the presence of potted plants.

I do not have green fingers, I am a poor gardener and sometimes plants flourish in spite of, not because of my care. I am not likely to be pastoral poet, I might be able to spot a host of golden daffodils but anything more difficult botanically than that and I am reaching for my Guide to Wildflowers and blowing the dust off it. This is not to say I don’t rejoice in the wonders of nature but more that I can’t put a name to them and don’t seem able to nurture them personally. However my garden does grow, not just with silver bells and cockle shells but elder, hawthorn, Camellia, ivy, a lot of ivy, brambles, dandelions, orange blossom, honeysuckle, bluebells, holly, convolvulus, ceanothus, daisies, buttercups and grass – so many types of grass, more types of grass than you would believe grasses. Nature given a clear run can manage just fine without the use of grow bags and all purpose plant food. Let be and there would be ivy covering Canary Wharf in no time, daisies on the M25, dandelions on the hallowed lawns of Wimbledon. That’s what I most love about nature sometimes it is always out to get you of course this is written by the woman who was bitten by a squirrel and returned from six weeks away to find convolvulus and ivy half way up all the drainpipes.

1 comment:

A J Stubbs said...

Hi, thanks for link to film, I will check it out. I think its also interesting, and revealing abou him perhaps, that he has chosen this method of expression - using the dolls. It seems to me that it would knit in with his cross - dressing and with the violence meted out to him, as it is a very visual means of self expression (like the cross dressing) but also is one in which he is not threatened as the creator. I have become interested in the difference between those with a visual memory (who see clearly an event) and those (apparantly about 40 %) whose memory doesn't recreate visually, and who remember in text. This must have a major influence on the means of expression people choose?

Anyway thanks for an interesting blog. Best

Alan