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'Dark Peculiar Toys' Exhibit Features Toys No Child Would Play With

By Janet Upadhye | October 4, 2012 7:08am | Updated on October 4, 2012 5:02pm

DUMBO — Viktor Koen has a thing for toys.

It’s not the brightly colored, shiny, plastic toys that turn his head, but rather the broken down, burned, headless and scarred. With the carnage of these forgotten yet nonetheless beloved toys, he has created something new and much creepier by reassembling them in his exhibition, “Dark Peculiar Toys.”

“They only retain colors, shapes and the scars inflicted by their previous owners," Koen said of his toys. "Scars that separate them from their assembly-line-identical multiples and make them one of the kind."

He has spent years collecting toys parts from far-flung places such as flea markets in London and Berlin, garage sales in Long Island, and from his own childhood in Greece. Some have even been salvaged from the trash.

“I have been known to embarrass my family by pulling stuff from a Dumpster or off the side of the street,” said Koen, who admitted to having mild hoarding tendencies.

But he has an eye for what he wants, and those forgotten toy parts sat like a “black market of body parts” in his Manhattan home up until a few years ago. That's when he began to reconstruct them into new toys “without instructions or the memory of their origins and function, and especially without consideration for their original creators intentions.”

He photographed his new creations for the photo exhibit, which opens at United Photo Industries in DUMBO Thursday night.

“I have a visual obsession with toys,” he said. “But this exhibit also sends a social message.”

Koen believes that toys are the first things that teach a child to be a consumer, and he is fascinated and frightened by the way children recognize name brands and logos at early ages.

However, no parent would choose his toys from a shelf, and Koen likes it that way.

A father himself, Koen found that his children were more interested in playing with toilet paper rolls, old FedEx envelopes and the boxes that toys come in than fancy dollhouses and action figures.

And for the most part, his little ones stay away from his scarred creations.

“I steal their toys,” he said. “But they have no interest in stealing mine.”

Dark Peculiar Toys opens Thursday, Oct. 4, 6 to 9pm at United Photo Industries at 111 Front St., Suite 204, in DUMBO. The show closes Oct. 28.