by Michelle Bock
Michelle Bock is many things. Artist, writer, photographer, friend, a seriously snappy dresser, a fan-freakin-tastic party host, a burgeoning cult leader… I could go on, could write about her blog and her poems about her cat, Lavina, but I keep hearing that people don’t like reading really long pieces of writing anymore and we have a lot to go through here. We’re gathered here today to talk about Doll World, my favorite of Michelle’s ventures. Doll World is the story of Garance and the well-to-do society she inhabits, represented by a collection of Barbie and Barbie-sized dolls. Michelle posts the saga on her facebook page and instagram (freezybug), but for those of you who aren’t fortunate enough to already know this woman’s work, we wanted to share it with you here for your viewing pleasure. Doll World, the characters and the sets are impeccably crafted by Michelle, and imbued with her singular, often curious, nature. Michelle’s dedication to Doll World is fastened at a crossroads of distinct characters, an evolving yet planned plot line and a fantastic attention to detail. For me, there’s something else about it, too. The same droning nag that compels you to shut your computer down and pick up a physical something-- a book, a pen, a brush a knife, I don't know-- and rejoin human society, even if you don't step out into it, in that most singular way that is you. Oh why is it so hard to do the very things we like to do? Below this first installment of Doll World (We'll post another in a few days), scroll down for two important things. First, there’s a “Previously on Doll World” to catch you up to speed on what’s been going on if you aren’t internet friends with Michelle. And second, an interview with Michelle about her work as puppet master, and just plain ol' master. Without further ado, Doll World.
"Another night , haunted by memories."
"Toby Dan is by my side, his gentle breath only compounds my guilt, cements the deep sorrow in the depths of my heart."
"What ails you, my honeycomb? Do you wish me to leave?" "Oh, no darling, stay. That same old dream came back to me!"
"I could never tell you! You have been so kind, the perfect lover, really. It's a repulsive vision."
"Cradling the head of Kasmir Jardin, my fiance' of long ago. His head drips blood onto my overalls, but it matters not to me. I am so happy to see him, it is a moment before I realize he is dead. With no hope for resurrection."
"Many years ago, we were riding along on my motorcycle. It felt so good to have him near me. Nothing could stop us, it seemed."
"Alas, how cavalier my thoughts would soon appear. Only seconds later, a large iron beam fell from a crane and knocked my Kasmir's head off."
"The motorcycle swerved into a ditch. Our bodies entwined, He was still warm. Kasmir's hand clutched my waist. His bloody head landed near mine, in a grizzly tet' a tet'."
"Forever lost to me."
"Floating in the dissolution of my dreams, mixed with tears. Murky and blue."
"My heart became a hollow island. And still, we are stranded. I must reach him again! He haunts me in the night in silence."
"Hello Madame, word has it you are the most powerful medium in Doll World." "It is true! I am Madame Concetta Mangiamelli. The spirits speak to me, and through me."
Stay tuned for the second half later this week. Previously on Doll World: Garance, (our beautiful, dark-haired heroine) a successful art dealer in Doll World, lives an enviable life. Flitting merrily from one glory to the next, she is powerful. People are dying to get in her brain, her pants, her world, her hair (doll hair is currency in doll world). Including her ex, Jack and Keith Quigley (Toby Dan’s ach nemesis). Publicly, she has it all. Currently she is romantically linked with Toby Dan (the short Austin Powers doll). Although he is her sweetie for real (he has a rich dad and lured her in with a sensual Ethiopian lap dance back in 2013) a nagging sadness gnaws at Garance. Her fiancé from long ago, Kasmir Jardin was decapitated mercilessly, before her very eyes, in a tragic accident. They were riding their bikes along a bridge, when a nearby crane broke and fell, severing Kasmir's head. Garance has been tormented by longing, grief and sadness, which she hides in a froth of gaiety. One night, desperate to contact him, she holds a séance with a prominent medium in Doll World, The Madame Concetta Mangiamelli. Of course, the spirits who emerge are not the ones she summoned, and the message from beyond is a surprise to her as well. Also notable is the upcoming wedding between Fat Enya members Fontessa and Minnie.
A picture of the band Fat Enya. YESYESYES: When did you start working— is that the right word? It’s not playing— with dolls? Are your dolls old ones you had as a kid, or do you prowl thrift stores for new dolls and accessories? Are you sewing tiny clothes in your amazing apartment? Michelle Bock: Been playing with dolls since I was a tiny thing. Most of the dolls I have now are fairly recent acquisitions. Every week I go thrifting and come up on treasure. People also give me a ton of doll stuff, too. Yes, I sew most of the doll clothes. It's very satisfying. CONTROL!!! YYY: I was in love with my Barbie dolls as a kid. Forever dressing them, cutting their hair, having long storylines executed over days dealing with mostly betrayal and love, making the dolls have sex as kids are wont to do. There’s the side of your dolls that I like because they’re in this kind of bizarre, aesthetically appealing, crazy dream world, and then there’s that part that is comforting and familiar, a nostalgic getaway. What draws you, drew you, to doing this? MB: Well, for as long as I can remember, I've always had scenarios that I've enacted through dolls & paper dolls. We didn't have a TV growing up, so I'd write little scripts and read. Films have always appealed to me. I can totally lose myself in a plot. My dreams are very vivid and lucid. A lot of times they come true. So, playing with my dolls is very much like a combo of dreaming and filmmaking. YYY: The appeal of creating these scenarios is what for you? MB: The satisfaction of accomplishment, when I've finished building a set is part of the appeal. It is very easy for me to make myself happy. I really enjoy my own company, and doll plays entertain me on so many levels.
YYY: Your dolls have some of my favorite names ever dreampt up. So appropriate for their characters and so special. Garance Beauvais, Toby Danforth Plantagenet Montague Verlaine Von Sabian, Ardith, Fontessa, Trudy, Grenadine... Do they all have such particular personalities too? Like, do they stay in character? Or can they just be interchanged if you need a new character? MB: The dolls absolutely have their own characters, which could never be interchanged. As the saga continues, more emerges about each doll. I also love to "turn people into dolls.” Special people in my "IRL" world interact with the denizens of Doll World as I see fit. Rather than interchange a doll, I will wait for the right one to come along. Right now, I'm waiting for the perfect man doll to play the part of Gamont Beauvais, Garance's half brother. YYY: Who was the first doll? What do you look for in a doll? MB: The first doll was Garance. She is a G.I. Joe Mademoiselle Marie doll. Generally, I try to avoid typical Barbie. I look for distinct faces - a celebrity likeness is better than a generic mold. Fully articulated limbs are a plus, but not imperative. YYY: What comes first: the plot or the setting? MB: It's all about the plot! I'm constantly laughing in my head and troubleshooting what will come next. Won't start shooting until everything is planned out. The next scene in Doll World involves a wedding salon, and it's going to take some time to fabricate. YYY: What’s the Barbie Dreamhouse for you? Like, what would you build if you could find the resources and time? Who’s your dream doll? MB: My Dreamhouse for dolls would definitely have to be a 1.6 scale model of Le Petit Trianon, hands down. It's an extravagant fantasy for the vanished elite, and to recreate it in miniature would be a mirror within a mirror. Plus, My dolls could really get decadent. Garance is French, so it would have a very atavistic edge to it.
YYY: You told me once about other doll people, and told me there’s a community of people who make and share their work on the Internet. Do you interact with any other doll people? What are they called? Dollies? MB: The doll scene is vast!! Where does one begin. Generally, when I admire another doll story-maker's talent, I let them know. We live all over the world, from the Midwest to Japan. There's different types, and it can get pretty hierarchical. Some folks would totally pooh-pooh my story, because the dolls aren't all Mattel. I in turn feel a bit snobby when someone does a moribund story entirely focused on the rather gloppy Fimo turkey they made. Also, for the record, Bratz dolls are lame. And they have no place in any doll story, except in doll porn. So, you may be able to see the levels of elitism and goofiness. Generally, though, I am very excited to meet other doll people— even if they use Bratz dolls. And, doll porn is rad. YYY: What do you look for in a doll world? MB: Beauty. I wanna look at a vignette and get lost in little details, even if those details never feature in the story. Peripheral vision exists for a reason. Witty and compelling story lines with a great set. YYY: What about your cult? Who can join? What’s the premise? MB: Well, my cult is the Cult Of Joy. I'm gathering cloths for the temple. When the temple is built, then everyone can join. Cult of Joy is about recognizing yourself and others as divine beings. It's about being in love with yourself and others. Ecstatic chanting is going to play a big role in unifying the divine forces of the initiates when we meet. Right now, I'm not really recruiting initiates, but am just focusing on magnetizing the good. Channeling and strengthening my internal magnetic forces through chanting and visualizing myself as the Red Tara made manifest. The more people who magnetize with me and manifest their perfect divinity and beauty, the more beautiful and magnetic we will be. I really believe that we are all perfect. The self-loathing dogma of imperfection that is constantly being shoved down our throats in the guise of morality and grace is killing us. All the striving, it's hell. We are divine and beautiful as we are, but in order for that to be activated it must be acknowledged. Will let you know when the temple is built. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Jen Snyder for YesYesYes