istanbul art biennale 2011: ala younis
istanbul art biennale 2011: ala younis istanbul art biennale 2011: ala younis
oct 06, 2011

istanbul art biennale 2011: ala younis

‘tin soldiers’ by ala younis image © designboom

istanbul art biennale 2011 explores the relationship between art and politics, presenting works that are both formally innovative and politically outspoken. among the curated group and solo exhibitions is the work of kuwaiti artist ala younis.

nine armies image © designboom

the tin soldier industry peaked between the two world wars, while the middle east was undergoing a process of remapping. before the modern period, only children of noble households played with the military figurines, and elaborate sets of them were presented to sons of royalty as a way of preparing them for the future rule. today, the middle east’s contemporary armies still have yet to be rendered into these toy soldier sets.

‘tin soldiers’ is an installation which depicts the nine armies that were implicated in, or subject to, acts of war in today’s middle east. the pieces are produced in numbers proportional to those of active troops in 2010. each of the featured armies are cast from the same mould and hand-painted in the military outfits of egypt, iran, iraq, israel, jordan, lebanon, palestine, syria and turkey. a total of 12,235 soldiers at a scale of 1:200 are arranged in a systematic platform, in a way acting as a multistage exploration of the results of the instrumentalizing of individuals through political and economic agendas.

installation view of ‘tin soldiers’ image © designboom

‘it is a historical moment for the arab world today, a region that has been no stranger to revolutions and upheavals, massive numbers of people continue to storm the streets, across arab cities, armed with peace rather than weaponry, refusing the state of submission that was forced upon them by systems that managed to stay in power for decades. with a lost faith in political parties and no heroic leaders, young people are throwing yesterday’s fear back into the face of their oppressors. nevertheless, people had to learn how to trust in institutions, and thus turned their eyes towards the armies. the armies have thus far either supported the revolutions by noninterference, or violently fought to stop them. informal, unarmed groups of passionate revolutionaries formed defense units to react to thugs and disorder. new forms of trust and tolerance have surfaced, a readiness for learning and collaboration is being witnessed. a return to proud feelings and exuberant unity is permissible. it is worth all the risks. the situation in the arab world dictates a recalculation of all decisions. of priorities, of open ends, of possibilities. of quick and meaningful reaction and adaptation. my investigation through research and individual narratives continues to look into the alternative spaces where these soldiers, and in many cases temporary soldiers, practice or express militarism. it started when I realized that many of us are unofficial, unarmed, untrained, frustrated, raised-to-be-readymade-fighters.‘ – ala younnis

the installation depicts the nine armies that were implicated in, or subject to, acts of war in today’s middle ease image © designboom

up close view of ‘tin soldiers’ image © designboom

each of the armies are lined-up systematically image © designboom

image © designboom

image © designboom

alternative installation view image © designboom

  • Congratulations and thanks for helping people to see what should be obvious if they were not corrupted by the media!

    celeste raposo says:
  • it sounds nelson leirner…

    rogério camargo says:
  • Cool

    Oliver says:

have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.
all comments are reviewed for the purposes of moderation before publishing.

comments policy
designboom's comment policy guidelines
generally speaking, if we publish something, it's because we're genuinely interested in the subject. we hope you'll share this interest and if you know even more about it, please share! our goal in the discussion threads is to have good conversation and we prefer constructive opinions. we and our readers have fun with entertaining ones. designboom welcomes alerts about typos, incorrect names, and the like.
the correction is at the discretion of the post editor and may not happen immediately.

what if you disagree with what we or another commenter has to say?
let's hear it! but please understand that offensive, inappropriate, or just plain annoying comments may be deleted or shortened.

- please do not make racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments.
- please don't personally insult the writers or your fellow commenters.
- please avoid using offensive words, replacing a few letters with asterisks is not a valid workaround.
- please don't include your website or e-mail address in your comments for the purpose of self-promotion.
- please respect jury verdicts and do not discuss offensively on the competition results
(there is only one fist prize, and designboom usually asks renown professionals to help us to promote talent.
in addition to the awarded designs, we do feel that almost all deserve our attention, that is why we publish
the best 100-200 entries too.)

a link is allowed in comments as long as they add value in the form of information, images, humor, etc. (links to the front page of your personal blog or website are not okay). unwelcome links (to commercial products or services of others, offensive material etc. ) will be redacted. and, ... yes, spam gets banned. no, we do not post fake comments.


a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

art news

keep up with our daily and weekly stories
482,808 subscribers
- see sample
- see sample
privacy policy