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American mummification enthusiast Mumman Mark (center) gets mummified in this scene from the Discovery Channel series 'Forbidden'.

Maybe some things are better left unexplained but not as far as a new Discovery Channel show is concerned. Premiering November 21, “Forbidden” is a 12-part series that delves into the bizarre world of extremely peculiar and unorthodox lifestyles, subcultures and beliefs from across the globe.

How peculiar and unorthodox to be exact? Consider this: There’s a young man in the US who seriously hopes to become pregnant, a lady who weighs 622 lbs who dreams of getting even bigger, a Russian psychologist who beats his own patients, a cutting-edge chef who uses soil as the key ingredient for everything in his menu and a foraging family in Scotland who loves to eat roadkill.

Forbidden? Not for these guys and especially not for Mumman Mark, an American salesman who lives a double life as, believe it or not, a “mummy”. In a recent interview with InterAksyon and other Asian journalists, Mark discusses the satisfaction he derives from being wrapped up from head to toe in duct tape in a “mummified state” for up to 12 hours that effectively restricts his movements.

“To become immobilized and all wrapped up, is a very comforting, nice and exciting feeling for me,” he insists. “It does take quite a while to get covered up properly with the right amount of pressure. You know, not having it too tight but just the full coverage alone can take a while”.

Asked how he got to be fascinated with mummies which are actually preserved cadavers associated with ancient Egyptian times, Mark said he was a fan of old mummy movies when he was a kid.

“I used to always dream about being all wrapped up and mummified and being, you know, in a helpless position, like all cocooned. Like in the Egyptian settings, I would think how cool it would be to be all wrapped up like that, and I would get Ace bandages and like wrap my arms and hands and my head with Ace bandages. And I just always loved the feeling; it gave me a warm and comforting as well as exciting feeling,” he admitted.

As for the fame that went with people’s discovery of his unusual pastime, Mark said it’s simply “a wonderful thing to be on some websites” and be seen by people from across the world.

“The main thing is the feeling, the tightness, the comforting feeling, being able to be secluded and isolated for long periods of time. And I can just zone out from the world and get into a nice meditative relaxed state. The energy goes up and down from relaxation to excitement, and it’s incredible,” he further explained.

As Mark has been doing this for quite a while, a lot of people are also now wondering how long will he keep on being a mummy. Given that he is now 57 years old and a grandfather of eight, are there any signs of slowing down or retiring from doing this for good?

“I have no plans to stop because I enjoy it, I love it so much. I feel much younger and I keep myself in really good shape; my health is excellent. And I constantly do monitor my respiration, my breathing and heart rate while I go through the hours. It can be strenuous at times, to go through a lot of long periods of very tight mummification situations. But even if I were to have any health issues, I imagine I would still – I would pursue it on a more limited basis,” he said.

And what does his family have to say about this?

“My three kids are all grown up and they’ve been on their own for many years now. They’ve been out of the house for a long time, which is what had given me the freedom to pursue this at home and without having to expose the children to this type of thing,” he revealed. “So yes, we have the freedom or the privacy at our house to be able to pursue this without any other complications within the household.”

“It was a secretive, fun thing that me and my wife did and kept secret from the rest of the family for a long time. I had hinted to a couple of my children about some things that I do, and to my brother as well. But when I talk about doing this stuff on a weekly or biweekly basis, it’s in the house with just my wife and myself, and the children are gone and out on their own, having more children”.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLKEZjc3Y6Y

“Trauma history”. That is the phrase used by Richard Kern in the introduction to Romain Slocombe’s ‘City of Broken Dolls‘. It’s an evocative phrase. In the context of the introduction, Kern is relaying a story about a woman he knows who had been in an accident and believed that the resultant scars made her look ‘ugly’. Kern then relays the fetishistic desire within him to photograph this woman immediately after the accident. The scars represented the trauma history mentioned above. This woman, scarred by her injuries, now possessed a mystery that fascinated Kern. This anecdote serves as an explanation for the existence of ‘City of Broken Dolls’.

Romain Slocombe is a Frenchman who makes his love of Japanese women no secret. Combining overt Asiaphillia with medical fetishism, Slocombe creates false trauma histories that both unnerve and compel. The photos in this collection don’t rely on gratuitous sexualisation of the subjects. The emphasis here is definitely on the mystery and ambiguity surrounding these broken dolls. Slocombe isn’t interested in falsifying gore, which is telling and, to me, what makes these photos successful. We stare at these women and wonder what fantastical situation caused the need for medical dressing. These are photos that depict the healing process. Even the evidence of trauma history, so lauded by Kern, is masked. We, as voyeurs, know nothing. Evidence suggesting the extent of the injury, or the progression of the healing process is inferred from the environments the broken dolls find themselves in. Some are captured within the city, nothing more than a sling supporting their arm, while others are nearly mummified in bandages and prostrate in hospital beds. All we have is a series of photographs that keeps us guessing.

Who hasn’t, at some point in their life, found themselves in a hospital to visit a relative or friend? It is here that we get our own glimpses of trauma histories from the nameless patients we pass, immersed in their own dramas, that we can only guess at. City of Broken Dolls is a careful recreation of those moments of horror, intrigue and mystique.