Miniature Town Brings Its Creator a New Life

A wedding takes place in front of strung-up S.S. infantry. Topless women bathe in a river and are discovered by a Nazi soldier. What appear to be oddball scenes from World War II staged with action figures are actually one man’s attempt to rebuild his life.

These images come from the mind of Mark Hogancamp, who was beaten and repeatedly kicked in the head by five men outside a bar in Kingston, New York eleven years ago. The attack was so brutal that afterwards his mother Edda did not recognize him. 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, unknowingly embarking on an art project that would be featured in high-profile exhibits and make him the subject of a hit indie documentary.

As a way to cope with his new life after the attack, Hogancamp built a Nazi-besieged, World War II era town in his backyard at 1/6 scale and resurrected his childhood love for action figures. He populated the model town with miniature alter egos of him and his friends. Each one is a personality in his anachronistic narratives, which he tells through staged photographs that read like frames in a comic book.

The town Hogancamp has created is called Marwencol. The name is a combination of three names of real people: Mark (Hogancamp), Wendy, and Colleen (two of his crushes).

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.

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