Open now at LEA2, is an homage to what remains both one of the most highest rates shows in US television history, and one of the most internationally popular and instantly recognisable: M*A*S*H.
Created by Tahiti Rae, the build lovingly recreates the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital from the era of seasons 6 through 8. Within it are all the familiar sets and locations. The Swamp, the Nurses’ Quarters, the tents of Colonel Sherman Potter, Father Mulcahy and Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan, the OR and offices – right out to the motor pool (remember Staff Sergeant Luther Rizzo?) and Rosie’s, the off-camp bar; all have their places here.
“I chose to build my representation based on this television series because so many people all over the world personally relate to how the human spirit, humour, diversity, skill and love can bring people together, regardless of War,” Tahiti said of the piece, “Does War send us apart? Or actually bring us together?”
She continues, “To me, war has never changed. It’s always been either self-defence or defending the freedom of a friend. Otherwise, it is intolerant aggression. Regardless, the human spirit always prevails. And this particular portrait of those who went through the Korean War, based on real surgeons on the front lines, brought into our living rooms what they suffered, laughed about and loved in such a profound way, that it touched us all.”
You might wonder how I can pin-down the period of the show represented by the build. Well, such is the care with which Tahiti has put this all together, the clues are all there to be seen, both indoors and outside. One only has to explore to find them. And exploration is very much the key to this installation.
You start at an arrival point high overhead – a triage or pre-op station, if you will – where you can find information on the build and on M*A*S*H itself. From here you can teleport down to the region, arriving at the 4077th, as so many personnel did, at the helipad located on a mound to one side of the camp.
Walk down the worn track from the pad, and you’re free to explore the camp as you will. Do make sure you have local sounds enabled to full appreciate things, and keep an eye out for the clipboards located in places like quarters, the OR and so on – they contain information and video links related to both popular moments in the show and the experiences of actual Korean War veterans.
Within these clips is one from one of the most poignant moments from the show, which in its own way, underlines the complete futility and indiscriminate nature of war: Radar’s announcement that Colonel Henry Blake’s plane, transporting him home after having completed his tour of duty, had been shot down over the Sea of Japan with no survivors.
The level of detail in the build really is wonderful – as noted above, there are enough clues to pin down the approximate point in the series the camp represents. There may even be individual clues which allow the time to be pinned down even closer than I’ve managed; but the key thing is, it’s all here – from Colonel Potter’s beloved Sophie, to the small memorial to Colonel Blake, through to Hawkeye’s trademark red bathrobe and signature Groucho Marx nose / glasses and on to … well, visit and see for yourself!
Around the periphery of the build are what appear to be some incongruities, such as a “tiny” military encampment and a sniper’s position, uniformed soldiers, all from eras much later than that of Korea – perhaps a reminder of conflicts which exist to this day.
As well as leading you to those, exploration of the region is important as it will bring you eventually to the story’s end – a music video and then a final teleport (reached via a bus; your only clue!
Those who know and love the series will understand the symbolism presented at the “The End”, as they follow Tahiti’s directions and explore each of the rooms. The reference to the show’s final episode and the experiences within it of the lynchpin of the series: Dr. Benjamin “Hawkeye” Pierce, as portrayed by the brilliant Alan Alda. Work your way up through the rooms to Hawkeye’s and then step out onto the fire escape. This will take you to a final goodbye – M*A*S*H style (although there ar teleports back to the start point and back down to the 4077th).
I’ll leave the final word on the build to Tahiti, “In a time of great conflict on this planet, I wanted to recreate MASH because I think it’s important that we remember how war separates us, and yet also how it brings us together. I am humbled and honored to bring back the full gamut of emotion that the writers and actors burned into our memories with this television series. We use the past as part of our foundation for the future.”