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.
ironically never made it to Belgium, where he would eventually set his 1:6 scale world. On the seemingly auspicious date of August 4, 1984 (8/4/84), Mark married his girlfriend, Anastasia, while he was still in the service. Anastasia was a Russian Polish girl he’d met back in the student lounge of Dutchess Community College. Their relationship was exciting and tumultuous, kept alive through a cycle of longing during Mark’s tours of duty and electric homecomings. C. A 1995 diary sketch of Mark
asked me if I saw any lights or if I heard any voices, and I told him, no. It was dark. It was silent. It was nothing. No lights. No music. No people. I didn’t hover over my body in a corner of a room. Nothing. It was just...it wasn’t cold. It wasn’t warm. It was just quiet. Peace. It was darkness.” A police photo from the scene of Mark’s attack on April 8, 2000. (photo provided by the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office) Friday, April 7, 2000 On Friday, April 7, 2000, Mark was working his shift at
other for the next four hours. Saturday, April 8, 2000 At around 1:30 a.m., Mark got into a conversation with a lanky twenty-three-year-old blond guy named Freddy Hommel, who was sitting at the bar. The conversation got off to a spirited start. Both Hommel and Mark were of German ancestry, so they talked about their heritage and tossed around a few German words. The bartender heard Hommel joke about “Nazism, Hitler, [he] said something about swastikas, just generally joking around and
code among guys like Purcell and Hommel: if your friend gets into a fight, you have his back. So the four ran over and jumped in. Later on, each of them would tell authorities that they kicked less than everyone else and were more concerned about Mark than the others. The only thing they agreed on was that Mead and Rand didn’t jump in with quite the same enthusiasm as Hommel, Purcell, and Black Freddy. While Mead and Rand kicked at Mark’s legs, Black Freddy later told detectives that he,
inside the structures easier, Mark equipped them with clever forms of access—a window in place of a roof, a removable false front, or, in the case of the Town Hall, enough empty space for Mark to sit inside the building to shoot on rainy days. Mark outfitted each of his structures with small props and furniture that were either found, donated by friends, or made by hand. Broken windshield glass along the roadside became ice in the drinks at Hogancamp’s. Hogie’s coffee cup held real coffee. Old