I loved those murder scene doll's houses, There used to be a full collection of them on flickr back in the day. They were so satisfyingly well constructed and thought out. Definitely macabre, but not in that horror movie, halloweenesque way that always seems a bit cheap and thoughtless to me.
I was fascinated with dolls during my art student days. Antique dolls especially. I loved the whole serene stillness of the settings and decadence which surrounded them (both in museums and old photographs) as well as the exquisite period clothing. I have never understood the hysteria either, but have never been much of a fan of screamer type movies, and the old trope of sticking a menacing looking doll into a fictionally evil child's arms always seems a bit obvious and contrived to me. Many of these associations began life in B&W mystery shows such as the Outer Limits, the Twilight Zone, etc, but the image of dolls as inherently evil just never got an update. I wonder why such an excellent subject hasn't received far more creative (non morbid) attention.
I do recall the craze online for Blythe dolls around 2005. I thought they were a bit nuts, but it takes all sorts... The Blythe obsession rubbed noses with the Korean and Japanese ball jointed doll arts around the same time. A lot of the associated photographic art was astoundingly good, so much so that after earning a healthy commission one month I purchased one from overseas, I think it was called 'MOMO'. It was quite incredible, fully articulated, wondrously beautiful, yet facially stylised enough that it didn't posses that creepy 'absent person' look. I worked on a few creative photo projects with it at the time (along with a curious, jointed white rabbit called Georgie), in a sort of whimsical, lunar setting that I managed to set up a small store for, which ended up earning me a decent passive income for several years.
Dolls have sort of
been good to me, although I wasn't much of a fan as a child.
That said, those images at the start of the thread are just ever so slightly depressing. And this is the problem isn't it? When the features and positioning of the dolls make them appear discarded, vacant, unpossessed
. They are less intimidating when their features seem to contain personality, something that the creator might be advised to bestow upon them - care.
Mass produced children's dolls of all eras are really quite horrifying, from the materials used to the gormless, submissive facial expressions, the mold that produced a thousand empty stares.... Tiny Tears, Walkie Talkie dolls, dolls that pee and cry, that only exist to be knocked about and discarded soon after, those painfully realistic 'reborn' dolls (therapeutic for some, a step too far
for others). They always have depressed me, like those random one-legged examples covered in mud and foliage that you might encounter on a country walk. Or the modded plastic baby doll heads, cheaply zombified for gothic effect. No....
Humans have always created small versions of themselves. From objects of desire and beauty, to symbols of strength and power to imaginative play. Mass production changed the game. There is so much creative potential to explore with dolls, I think they are just going through a bad phase in culture
They have the ability to fire the imagination, to assist in resolving or unlocking what lies hidden (therapy, art, fear), to enable the projection of feelings and ideas in a safe way (enacting scenes, creating worlds, exploring personalities) and for many are a delight to clothe, style and fuss about with.
I no longer have much to do with them myself, but they need some positive press.
I can see why so many people are unnerved by them. Many of the circulating images might strike a resemblance to those Victorian memorial photographs of deceased children dressed up in their Sunday best, posed in their grieving mother's arms; they can provoke a similar sense of tragedy or horror in us. Like empty shells with only half human faces, many of them designed to look ever so slightly in pain....like tragic masks, dehumanised.
The Jan Svankmajer film 'Alice', one of my old favourites, and his other short film 'Jabberwocky' really play on the timeless, surreal relationship that we share with dolls. Where elements of innocence and brutality are perpetually intertwined. Anyone even remotely interested in art films using dolls that are not in the vein of crappy horror might also want to check out the Brothers Quay.