Subversive toys’
(2017-2021). [Light boxes]. Work in progress, Berlin, Germany.

Are the toys playful?
Undoubtedly, but they can also be reductive. Although their main function is to amuse, they represent the normalized world, the order of things, the established system. The toy is also a tool for learning rules and behaviour, it shapes us through conformism to the values of society. Through play, social construction is understood and perfected; it is an essential bridge between the world of childhood and adulthood.

In Juguetes Subversivos, Carmen Arrabal challenges us by using toys against the grain. And boy do they rebel, neither God nor Master! Only uninhibited, sexed and transgressive creatures who revel in showing us their deepest, inner most desires: to do whatever they want...

Yoann Kaplan

Made of wood from old frames, toys, objects and materials that the artist Carmen Arrabal finds in the street or in markets; the light boxes of the Subversive toys’ series unite the media and take up the themes of previous projects. This work offers, from the obsessive and fetishistic gaze of the collector, playful, transgressive and surreal universes.


‘Wonderful world’ (Subversive toys I)
(2017-2019). [Work composed of 3 light boxes and a wooden pedestal (collage and acrylic). Mixed media: used toys, recycled and processed objects and various materials, LED lights, 10-inch tablet. With video-creation made specifically for the work. Overall dimensions: 155 x 167 x 42,3 cm]. Berlin, Germany.

‘Wonderful world’ (Subversive toys I)is a work composed of three light boxes. Two larger boxes dedicated to the thematic and topical universe of men and women. And one smaller box, a dark bridge between both worlds. In the center we see two wedding cake toppers surrounded by babies with a video backdrop. Wonderful World switches gender color stereotypes (pink for men and blue for women) and challenges roles and our views on social spaces (public and private).

In the male world created here, the superheroines are engaged in household chores (cleaning, childcare or sewing - housewife, mother or diva). This is highlighted by the objects and accessories that surround them (cleaning utensils, cosmetics, threads, buttons, sewing needles or baby bottles)

The feminine universe, conversely, is set in an outdoor space where the dolls characterize some typically male negative behaviors (drug gangs, dog fights, gender violence...). Again, this message is accentuated with the use of props: weapons, drugs, money, work tools, tyres or pornographic magazines.

In the central box, the bridge between these two worlds of extreme transvestite stereotypes, the same pattern of transgression is repeated. The feminine and the masculine are represented this time by a collection of babies grouped by their chromatically inverted gender condition (blue for girls / pink for boys). A corridor divides the two spaces; becoming the epicenter of the entire work. Here we see the figures of a wedding cake, once again, the male is the one who wears white.

At the bottom of this box is a looped video installation, featuring the Louis Armstrong song What A Wonderful World. This video piece recreates a karaoke setting in which the lyrics of the song gradually appear on the screen. The images we see on the video are in absolute contrast with the tone of the song. Optimistic lyrics of hope for the future are coupled with internet archive images portraying a much darker reality (war, deforestation, forced labor or drugs in childhood, poverty, sects...). The images are processed by modifying gender stereotypes with the same chromatic metaphor (pink for the masculine and blue for the feminine) used throughout the work.

In the forest’ (Subversive toys II)
(2019). [Mixed media / used toys, recycled and processed objects and various materials, LED lights. Measures: 25 x 19.5 x 21.8 cm]. Berlin, Germany.

In the forest’ (Subversive toys II)is an intimate, small-format work that continues the transgressive approach of the Subversive toys series. The play presents the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, a childish character who, far from the role attributed to her in the original story (naive, passive and defenseless), provokes the wolf by lifting her skirt.
The wolf, surprised by the daring and provocative gesture of the young girl, loses control and looks at her paralyzed.

Glory hole’ (Subversive toys III)
(2019-2020). [Mixed media / used toys, recycled and processed objects and various materials, LED lights. Size: 48,5 x 26,5 x 25,5 cm]. Berlin, Germany.

The story depicted in Glory hole’ takes place in the toilets of an imaginary Berlin club. Somewhere between reality and fiction, the characters in this piece represent the diversity of Berlin nightlife. (The graffiti and posters we see here on the walls were photographed by the artists in some of the many bars she works in) The composition of the scene invites us to observe, as voyeurs, what is happening in the different toilet booths and in the queue of creatures (among them Batman transformed into a drag queen or Peter Pan and Tinkerbell) waiting for their tower...


‘Dominatrix and friends’ (Subversive toys IV)
(2020). [Mixed media / second hand toys, various recycled and treated objects and materials, LED lights, mirror ball with rotating motor.
Miniature erotic works by artist Kyla Avery Kegler.
Work composed of 2 pieces. Overall dimensions: 179 x 69.5 x 53.5 cm.
Lightbox, dimensions: 89 x 69,5 x 53,5 cm and wooden pedestal, dimensions: 90 x 60 x 40 cm]. Berlin, Germany.

‘Dominatrix and friends’ (Subversive toys IV) is a large-format light box, the production of which took place during the two lockdowns of 2020. The toys participating in the scene indulge in an erotic game of domination and submission led by Dominatrix, the main character.

The centerpiece of this play is a spinning disco ball, we see Dominatrix with the other dolls chained and bent towards her.
Their costumes, made with costume jewelry and recycled everyday materials, are inspired by sadomasochistic lingerie.

The lighting, created with RGB LEDs, changes color in a slow cadence that accentuates the nightclub atmosphere.
The miniature erotic works hanging on the stage walls are the work of artist Kyla Avery Kegler.