It has been a while I took notice of them and once I spotted them, the next one just seemed a few footsteps away. Glorious on top of a street sign, deceitfully hidden into the facade of a house or victoriously enthroned on a shop sign or billboard – a whole armee of little toy soldiers has taken over Reykjavík downtown. And they brought their allies: fairy tale stickers, action figures and cartoon characters. Sometimes plain in sight, these little fighters are usually well hidden and it engages pedestrians to stop for a minute and find the little odd thing weaved into everyday city life. They somehow manage to bring back the child into your heart.
A yet unknown street artist or maybe several artists put up these little toy figures everywhere around downtown Reykjavík and make people, who notice them, stop and smile for a second. This project somehow symbolises for me the lightness of life the daily routine sometimes makes you forget. It brings charm and playfulness into the daily occurence of a city. Things that are generally perceived as ordinary or bland get that little spark.
Ever since I spotted them, I always wanted to spend one day to hunt them down, count them and find all their secret hideaways. It was one of those projects you really long for to do, but never really come to happen. Either I didn’t had the time or if I had the time, the Icelandic weather was foiling my plans. After all this waiting, I got so impatient, that one free day, which happened to be freezing cold (-5°C), I dragged my poor sweetheart out of the warm apartement, equipped with a camera and a mindset to finally get my way, we headed downtown. It didn’t take us long until we found the first toy soldiers. In fact, Laugavegur is full with those little hidden figures. Pay attention and you can have an afternoon or two full of fun while on a toy soldier hunt. Most important: In an ever so expensive city like Reykjavík, this fun comes for free and will definetly put a smile on your face while you trace your next toy soldier.
During a two-day-hunt in downtown Reykjavík, we managed to find at least 122 toy soldiers, action figures, puppets and many other fantastic creatures. While some fear “Downtown Reykjavík would turn into a soulless Disneyland” due to the herds of tourists ever reaching new record numbers each year since 2010 – Thanks to these little figurenes downtown Reykjavík obviously is already a Disneyland, but a soulful and sincere one. This kind of pure soul you find in nurseries.
Or maybe, we got it all wrong, and it is a deeply sarcastic project after all, symbolising all that is wrong with downtown Reykjavík, perhaps symbolically fighting all the changes tourism has brought based on the comic war cry “kill them with kindness” or in this matter: Cuteness. Decide for yourself.
Meet the toy soldier army and its allies: