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David Cerny 1967 Czech republik

A tank is the ultimate war machine, designed to meet its contemporary threats. Weapon technology development is part of the armament spiral that we are still living in and, several decades after the fall of the Wall, has increased significantly once again.

A tank is not only equipped with the best countermeasures, it’s also camouflaged according to the latest findings about invisibility in a combat environment. The element of surprise is part of its strategic advantage.

Painting an entire tank in pink, like David Cerny has done, is literally the same as de-arming it – at least in regard to its element of surprise. If it is actually de-armed for real, it instead becomes a sculpture in which anyone interested in big machines can take a closer look into how little construction details have been worked out. Looking at it that way, it’s an engineering work of art.

In Cerny’s decision to paint the tank pink, it suddenly also becomes an artistic object. It is separated from its intended design and becomes, in the spirit of Marcel Duchamp, a readymade. Considerably more extensive and heavier than Duchamp’s early 19th century classic Bottle Rack, but just as fully a sculptural object.

Cerny’s Pink Tank is an older tank and gains a new dimension and association when one considers that the artist is Czech. His country was ravaged by the Soviet Union in the Prague Coup of 1968, in which the superpower brutally suppressed a movement for democracy behind the Iron Curtain. The Soviet forces made their presence and their power clear to the protesters by filling the streets of Prague with armoured vehicles.

The tank now stands here in the Stortorget square as an artistic object and is likely viewed more with fascination than with concern by Örebro residents and visitors to the city.
Still, David Cerny’s pink tank becomes an elegant pacifist protest against state violence and a reminder that democracy and freedom of expression do not come without cost, but must be fought for. Something we can do as effectively and yet as peacefully as by painting a tank pink.