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April 24, 2006

War + Pink = Peace


What is it with the color pink? It seems to be so heavily laden with meaning; tenderness, feminity, love, sex, warmth. Add all this up, throw it on a tank or any other weapon of war, and what do you get? Peace? That's right, peace. War (or tank) + pink = peace.

Let's apply our simple equation to a few real world tanks and watch the magic happen.

If you had taken a walk to the corner of Pages Walk and Mandala Way in London in 2002, you would have been greeted by the threatening view of a a large green/gray T-34 (a tank). There it is before you: a menacing ghost of battle, of death – a monster waiting (hiding) in the weeds. Children walk by quickly. Old men look away with hands over old wounds. And so you turn and leave and never return. Too bad. You will never see what is about to happen.


Later that same year the tank is painted pink by artist Aleksandra Mir and is dubbed Pink Tank. Instantly it is transformed. It becomes cute and small. Approachable, funny, sexy. Above all, it becomes a statement of peace.

And now people flock to the tank. There it sits, a virtual playground for graffiti artists, a work in perpetual
progress. A weapon transformed into a statement of peace, love and open mindedness...


London's tank was not the first to become pink. Perhaps the pink tank that started it all was Prague's tank No. 23. In 1968, the Soviets had just entered the Czech capital with loads of big mean T-34s. They mounted one up on a pedestal in the city square (just to let everybody know who was boss). And there it stood until 1991, after the fall of the Soviet empire, when David Cerny, a local artist, decided he that wasn't crazy about the whole thing. So he painted it pink.


The Czech Army had a difficult time figuring out what all of this meant but they knew they didn't like it and so they repainted green. Too late. This whole pink thing had already caught on big and parliament deputies re-repainted it pink, in support of David Cerny's original statement.

Cerny's pink tank was clearly something very un-Soviet. They were big and powerful but their residual tank became diminished and pink and pretty (flowery-pretty). In this case, our equation, again applied to a tank, became a powerful statement: powerful enough to get Cerny temporarily arrested and powerful enough to cause the stubborn Czech Army officials to eventually throw up their hands and remove the Soviet symbol (which was a delight to almost everyone).

Other Pink Tanks

It turns out that the symbol of a pink tank has become such a powerful statement that protesters will go to great extremes to come up with one, as can be seen in this parade (below), where those involved constructed their own fake tank. This is obviously second best; the contrast between the harsh realities of war and the color pink can be mostly lost.


War + pink may also equal Gay Pride. This equation is much more complex. I'm not even going to approach it...


And now for one of my pink tank favorites; the pink form-fitting blanket-wearing tank! I really love this one, it's absolutely weird and spectacular and it adds so much to the pink tank symbology. A hand knit blanket – here's something we cozy up under at night. It brings us warmth. Comfort. It has rich sentimental value and our maybe our grandmother has made it for us. We hold it and think of her. Negatives: the blanket can be easily destroyed or removed. Also, it takes a very time to crochet this sort of think; I can't imagine making one for a battleship. Or the Pentagon (though Christo did wrap the Reichstag with cloth and it was freakin' amazing)!


So What Can the Equation Do For Us?

If we like war, I suppose we should stay away from pink (no one's going to take a pink infantry very seriously). But if you don't agree with war, or a particular war, then you may want to get out your buckets of paint (or crochet hooks) and get to work! The equation works. It may even be as symbolically as powerful as tea+indian costumes+Boston Harbor=really pissed king (but probably not). War + pink = peace. So paint. And prepare yourself for the coming peace (keeping your pink fingers crossed).


The above image is of the USS Balao, painted pink for the Blake Edwards 1959 film Operation Petticoat, starring Cary Grant and Tony Curtis (thank you, Alli).

Note: War + pink = peace is only a simplified equation. The real equation is much more complex but I'm not smart enough to figure it out. It involves levels of power and complexity of symbology. For example, a pink missle is effective but if the Little Boy atomic bomb were painted pink... this would practically yell and scream peace (though unfortunately, it would clearly be an act of vandalism). If we raise the bar even more, a pink oval office might instantly end any war. But a pink American flag? Though the flag may imply military strength, it also implies a complex mix of other things; coloring it pink might diminish all of these complex meanings, diluting any desired impact of the pink in the first place. Conclusion: one needs to be methodical when one is dealing with pink.


Note 2: The top-most Land Rover is the Pink Panther British Special Air Service's Desert Land Rover, one of the few real pink military vehicles I was able to find. Another was a flotilla of destroyers painted Mountbatten Pink in WWII. Know of anymore pink military vehicles? Let me know.

(many of these tanks came via the incomparable: boingboing)

April 24, 2006 | Permalink


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Wasn't there an old Cary Grant movie about a sub that got painted pink?

Posted by: Alli | Apr 25, 2006 4:14:43 PM

Alli, I didn't know about this. If you remember the movie, will you comment it here? Thanks!

Posted by: Robyn | Apr 25, 2006 4:24:53 PM

Yep, it was Operation Petticoat.
As far as I can remember, it was sort of typical Grant material (kind of silly, but quick wit), but it was very entertaining to see how the other countries reacted to a pink submarine (especially since the movie is set during WWII, I think).... talk about making yourself into a target!

Posted by: Alli | Apr 25, 2006 6:02:59 PM

I work on a submarine, but I've never seen a pink one.

Posted by: jedimacfan | Apr 25, 2006 6:23:41 PM

Nature goes pink to attract (flower sex) and standout in a sea of green; it goes brown and green to hide(to aid violence or avoid it). An albino deer shares something with the pink tank.

It reminds me of the 60s photo of the college student/war protestor sliding the flower into the rifle barrel...

Posted by: Chris G | Apr 26, 2006 8:25:15 AM

Yoshimi Battles The Pink... Tanks?

Posted by: John | Apr 26, 2006 11:18:41 AM

Here's a pink vehicle you really have to see to believe . . . you'll instantly recognize it .


Posted by: Alex | Apr 26, 2006 1:11:52 PM

Alex, I love the retouch! Gehn would not be pleased!

Posted by: Robyn | Apr 26, 2006 2:31:51 PM

I sent this to BoingBoing already, but Xeni has been ignoring my comments and submissions for years. I thought that at least you might be interested in this: Mischa Good is a very talented Swiss lowbrow sculpture artist who created this amazing (NSFW) pink tank out of fimo for the Fumetto Comics Festival in Lucerne: http://flickr.com/photos/wurzeltod/125745569/

It can even shoot... o_O

Posted by: Suzanne | Apr 28, 2006 9:42:51 AM

Thanks for the compliment, Robyn! Glad you liked it. Had the Moeity pulled a stunt like that, they would have been wahrk bait for sure.

Posted by: Alex | Apr 28, 2006 12:57:32 PM

Robyn, have a look at this: http://www.gotouring.com/razzledazzle/articles/dazzle.html

Posted by: xenmate | May 2, 2006 1:18:40 PM

Hey this is fun.

I found another one. A group of peace activists broke into a military base in Figueres, Catalonia, painted a tank pink, then put it on sale in the local newspaper giving the military's base telephone number as the point of contact.


Posted by: xenmate | May 2, 2006 1:25:04 PM

Pink was used in WW2 for camouflage


Posted by: il afe big | Jul 19, 2008 11:34:17 AM

Fascinating; something about pink + military that self-suggests itself. When I was a freshmen at Georgia Tech in 1974, there was a 1960's era annual tradition of painting the big naval guns ping (parked in front to the Navy ROTC building vaguely pointing at some unseen threat somewhere just past the end of campus). The Navy types would dutifully repaint them blue; there was an impressive sequence of repeated layers of successive pink + blue paint.

Posted by: toma | Sep 28, 2008 11:25:19 PM

Thanks for the tutorial, Robyn!but it was very entertaining to see how the other countries reacted to a pink submarine

Posted by: boutique de laine | Mar 17, 2009 4:29:39 PM

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