Someone died at the fundraiser I went to at SooVAC last night. In fact, it was a virtual bloodbath. Graphic scenes of death were everywhere, and the evening culminated in a body splayed on the floor amidst the fashionably dressed crowd. There was even a crime-scene investigation by a real-life police officer.
OK, the graphic scenes were of dolls, the “body” was that of an actor, and the cop was off duty, but still . . . . A typical night at the gallery? Not so much. Good fun? Most definitely.
The event, titled "Our Wildest Dreams: A True Crime Evening of Music, Art & Mystery," was a fundraiser for a forthcoming documentary by Susan Marks, the force behind the book Finding Betty Crocker and an accompanying documentary about the cultural icon. Our Wildest Dreams trades wholesome, corporate domesticity for a sordid, unruly view of life behind closed doors.
Though the film has yet to be made, the premise is intriguing, if quirky. The tale plays on our seemingly tireless fascination with forensics based on what Marks describes as “the nation’s insatiable appetite for programming like CSI.” Marks seems to have a knack for finding the unusual angle to a familiar phenomenon. In this case she tapped straight into out collective fascination with both death and domesticity. She uncovered a most peculiar forensics tool—dollhouses used to recreate crime scenes—designed by one Frances Glessner Lee. The houses are still used to train investigators at the Maryland facility where they are housed.
Each dollhouse recreates a crime scene complete with tiny corpse dolls who represent actual murder victims. SooVAC's walls were lined with black-and-white images of suspicious doll death in all its variations:
Doll hanging from a noose? Check.
Dolls shot as they lay “sleeping” in bed? Check.
Doll laying face down at the bottom of the stairs? Check.
You get the idea. The photos' heavy shadows and unrelenting focus on blood and guts evoke the crime scene photographs of Weegee—except, of course, with dolls.
By the end of the investigation (though by no means the end of the evening, which also featured live music and an ample supply of chips, pretzels, peanuts and peppermint patties), a love triangle had been revealed, the body in question had disappeared, and two “people of interest” had been taken into figurative custody. Not a bad night’s work on the homicide beat.