Early in 2009, blue helmeted soldiers began to appear in various parts of the world. Each in a different type of urban space, each in a different formation, sometimes as a platoon sometimes as lone individuals – more often than not, rifle poised to fire.
The soldiers are in actuality small toy-like plastic model soldiers, strategically situated for various lengths of time, photographed and publicized in thousands of locations around the world – from Europe to South America to Australasia. Details on their ‘deployment’, or for that matter, their mission, is not a matter of public knowledge. Artist Pierre Derks – initiator of the project and designer-author of the subsequent book – initially announced on Dutch TV, radio and YouTube that blue helmeted soldiers are on a ‘massive quest’. He then inviting sightings to be reported on the project website, upload reportage photography, and describe their military formation on (perhaps as an act of counter-surveillance, no one was really told). The first sighting of the Blue Helmets was in February 2009 when a battalion of around 500 commanded control of a phone booth in the centre of the Dutch city of Delft. The book contains hundreds of photographs by hundreds of people, and ten short essays by critics and writers. Fascinating and intriguing in short measure, the project in terms of its spatial coverage, is probably the largest public art project ever.
Pierre Derks, Miniscule Blue Helmets on a Massive Quest, Den Haag, lhGWR, 2011 [limited edition artist’s book: 1000]. With essays by Susan Manuel, Roger Stahl, Jonathan Vickery, Patrick M. Regan, Jos Morren, Linda Polman, Matt Groff, Christ Klep, Damon Stanek and Pierre Derks.
Text by Jonathan Vickery