“Sylvanian Families” is a line of toy animal collectibles from the Japanese gaming company Epoch, which came up with them in the 1980s. The little creatures made of flocked plastic can be collected and displayed with settings like beach backgrounds, homey interiors, village shops, picnic tables in the woods, etc. Their fortunes have waned in the United States, but they’re still pretty big in the UK.
A UK artist of Syrian descent, who goes by the name Mimsy, planned to display a series of Sylvanian Families light-box dioramas at a London exhibit celebrating — get this — freedom of expression. The title is “ISIS Threaten Sylvania.”
Each scene shows toy-animal ISIS figures in a menacing posture, threatening cute Sylvanian Families.
According to the Guardian, the police weren’t taking this threat to public security lying down.
[“ISIS Threaten Sylvania”] was removed from the Passion for Freedom exhibition at the Mall galleries after police raised concerns about the “potentially inflammatory content” of the work, informing the organisers that, if they went ahead with their plans to display it, they would have to pay £36,000 for security for the six-day show.
The Guardian‘s Jonathan Jones reviewed Mimsy’s “ISIS Threaten Sylvania”:
Sylvanian Families, the popular toy that allows children to collect a whole miniature world of old fashioned shops, VW cars (that’s another opportunity for satire right there), water mills and canal boats populated by cutely costumed mammals, lends itself to dark humour. It creates such a bland fantasy of innocence that it seems to invite disaster. The arrival of Islamic State is it.
The satire is not on Islamic State so much as on the west, living out our Sylvanian idyll, pretending this is not happening.