No artwork encapsulates the unity and camaraderie between troops better than this suit of armor constructed from polished dog tags.
The sculpture, titled Some/One, was created by Do-Ho Suh. The Korean artist briefly served in the South Korean military before immigrating to the United States, where he trained as a sharpshooter. Using thousands of reprinted dog tags that he individually polished and arranged, Suh constructed the suit of armor to show how a multitude of individuals band together to form one cohesive army. Soldiers are both vibrant individuals and integral pieces of a larger whole.
To be clear, these aren’t real tags from fallen troops, but stainless steel reproductions printed for the piece. The tags themselves don’t even have names on them–just nonsensical numbers and English words.
Suh also included a mirror inside the art piece to provoke the viewer to consider whether or not the armor is protecting them.
“I wanted the viewer to have an experience with these little dog tags, these thousands of dog tags,” Suh said of the sculpture. “It symbolizes each individual’s identity…these many dog tags create this one, larger-than-life figure. It’s ambiguous whether you’re a part of it or not. Whether you are the owner of this robe when you see your own image over there. So that’s why I had the mirror inside.”
Some/One was inspired by a piece Suh made in art school, in which he made a military jacket out of 3,000 misprinted dog tags from Army-Navy surplus stores.
For now the installation is housed at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.