More than three years ago the Dutch designer Pierre Derks started painting blue helmets on plastic toy soldiers. On February 19 a book will be launched presenting this project and how it unleashed a small toy soldier revolution. Miniscule Blue Helmets on a Massive Quest shows the worldwide spatial invasion of 50,000 little soldiers with blue hand-painted helmets, beret or hat by means of 500 selected photos of these blue helmets in more than 60 countries. Explains Derks about his project:
“The mass manifestation of the Miniscule Blue Helmets in public space implies that the potential of getting confronted with a heavily armed blue helmeted soldier is within reach of a global audience. Although it is obvious that the encounter is rather different from running into a real-life UN Blue Helmet, it might just trigger the same questions and feelings about their presence and deployment. The open nature of the project has led to a fascinating variety of outcomes that contributed to the layered meaning.”
It was not Pierre Derks himself going around the world leaving soldiers all over the place. He got help from a very diverse group of people. Coincidently I was part of the project too after finding a package containing three blue helmet soldiers in a bar in Amsterdam, and distributing these in the city. Altough I did not have any clue about the scale of the project. The project got also adopted by a group of Dutch Blue Helmet veterans who took part in the UN mission in Lebanon in the seventies and eighties. According to Jos Morren, “Frank bought 2,000 of those little green men and painted the helmets blue himself, constantly carrying them with him and leaving them in tactical spots. (…) Eric took it more slow, but became inseparable from his one Miniscule Blue Helmet. Very handy, because if you lose touch with the world because of a psychological blockade, you just put your little buddy on the table. Very effective in such a situation. Out of the blue, those boys were suddenly given a healthy, creative form of self medication, through the art of Derks”.
A call from Derks to take a picture of your own urban blue helmet intervention and uploading the image with its geographical coordinates resulted in a filled world map that monitors the presence of the soldiers in more than 60 countries. A selection of 500 of these uploads can be found in the book (in specific order).
The beautiful book Miniscule Blue Helmets on a Massive Quest, of which only 1,000 copies are printed, also presents reflections on the project by international specialists such as Susan Manuel, Roger Stahl, Jonathan Vickery, Patrick M. Regan, Jos Morren, Linda Polman, Matt Groff, Christ Klep, and Damon Stanek. Their writings not only relate to the art project, but also to broader themes, such as the ‘real’ blue helmets known for the United Nations peace-keeping missions, and military influence in society and the entertainment industry. Susan Manuel, Chief of the Peace and Security Section of the UN Department of Public Information, concludes:
“The Miniscule Blue Helmets project should reflect the aspirations and ideals of the United Nations. Miniscule Blue Helmets should not be put into situations that might misrepresent UN mandates. Many of them serve in hardship situations trying to heal conflicts that were not of their making. Each year, more than 100 may die in service. For this they should be acknowledged and thanked, even in plastic form.”
Miniscule Blue Helmets on a Massive Quest
Liefhertje en de Grote Witte Reus, The Hague
165 x 115 x 36 mm, 560 pages, 1,000 copies
—Click here to order Miniscule Blue Helmets on a Massive Quest.