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The Embodied Power of Punk-i-fied Barbies

“If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry,” wrote Emily Dickinson.  Emily’s wham-bang factor applies to the documentary film Marwencol, showing in The Toby on Thursday, December 9.  Here’s a peek:

The subject of this film, Mark Hogancamp, almost had his head taken off by a pack of bullies in a bar.  But Hogancamp lived to create a painstaking, war-torn, one-sixth scale universe called Mar-wen-col (a word combining his own name, and the names Wendy and Colleen, two significant women in his life).  Marwencol is overrun with punk-i-fied Barbies and Nazi G.I. Joes, enacting a cycle of torture and love.  Hogancamp’s bird’s eye photos of Marwencol are worthy of a New York gallery show.

Watching the film is like unstacking a set of Russian dolls, revealing ever weirder scenarios combined with spectacular pathos. The Boston Globe critic Ty Burr calls Marwencol “a strange and very beautiful documentary about the gray area between obsession and art — about the compulsive need to create something when the world leaves you with nothing.”  (Read his full review.)

Any art museum is a haven for objects of embodied power: a Buddha statue, a Bidjogo mask, a painting of the Virgin Mary.  The dolls he created to live in Marwencol are just as effecting for Hogancamp – and for viewers of the film.

My IMA colleague Lindsay Hand went to the South by Southwest film festival last March, and this was the standout film that we had to bring to the IMA.  The screening’s co-presented by our friends at the Indianapolis International Film Festival.  After the film, we’re going to skype in filmmaker Jeff Malmberg for a virtual post-film chat in The Toby.

Marwencol is also showing this week in Toronto, Minneapolis, and San Francisco.  We’ve brought it to Indianapolis for your viewing pleasure—if it pleases you to have your mind blown.

Filed under: Film, Public Programs, The Toby

5 Responses to “The Embodied Power of Punk-i-fied Barbies”

  • avatar
    Scott Hall Says:

    This looks amazing and wonderfully weird!

  • avatar
    Molly Radecki Says:

    This film was produced by Matt Radecki, nephew a Martin J. Radecki. It nice to see Radecki’s back in the IMA!

  • avatar
    3snak3 Says:

    Well, that’s cool! Wonder what else Matt is producing?

  • avatar
    Molly Radecki Says:

    Matt Radecki has produced/ directed two other films that have done quite well on the Festival circuit: TV Junkie, and Red, White, Blue and Black. However, to be honest my favorite is a documentary he made about his Father, Roland Radecki, who makes sculptures that are miniature ironic museums called ‘Museums of the Mind.’ Each museum is a satire on contemporary museum culture because of nepotistic policies, corrupt boards, and lack of historical insight. For instance, he makes a contemporary art museum that looks like a cheeseburger, and a Lynching museum that looks like a Cathedral, and a museum in honor of all the lies of the Church. He started to make these Museums after being forced to leave the Studebaker Car Museum, because of speaking out against a poorly planned construction project and budget, and he continues to make the ‘Museums of the Mind’ today, because he says it keeps his mind going. I suggest this to be the next Radecki Film at the IMA, as it is truly amazing. Also, if you ever get a chance to go South Bend, Indiana, I highly recommend stopping at the Radecki Frameshop to see the Museums in person.

  • avatar
    Andrew Radecki Says:

    We don’t die we multiply.

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