Cam’ron’s infamous 2002 fur ensemble, Mean Girls’ Wednesday dress code, Beyoncé’s Coachella Weekend 2 uniform and Bonang’s, well, everything. These are just some of the most iconic moments starring the colour pink. Pink is fun. It’s fashion. It’s a moment dahhhling. But it isn’t all glamour and pop culture glut. It is also complex – probably the most complex colour of all – with a long history of absurdly gendered associations enforced by societal conditioning. However, in recent cultural history, there has been a re-imagining and reclamation in the works. It is no longer for exclusively for girls, or even just for femme bodies. In new re-imaginings, Pink assumes a political stance and is embraced by people across the gender spectrum. It has become defiance of heteronormative rules and a challenge to the patriarchy. Ultimately, when we all embrace it says we won’t play by the rulebook given to us.
Apartment Vol 2 presents Pink’s Not Dead!, a group exhibition curated by Jana Terblanche, which celebrates and challenges the associations of this contested tone. This exhibition unpacks its many complexities. Pink’s Not Dead! features the work of Stephen Allwright, Isabella Chydenius, Githan Coopoo, Mia Darling, Grace de Kroon, Good Good Boy, Katharien de Villiers, Mira Jaan, Akshar Maganbeharie, Nabeeha Mohamed, Rosie Mudge, Talia Ramkilawan, and Michaela Younge. The title is inspired by a punk anthem and is a nod to the disruptive powers of this unsuspecting colour. The exhibition takes place in a specially curated room featuring pink walls, a red ceiling and light activations. The interior styling is co-curated by Maybe Corpaci and Jana Terblanche.
Pink is disruptive to its core. The first sign of its rebellion is that no wavelength of light is pink, rather it is a mixture of violet and red on opposites ends of the spectrum. The artists present here flesh out its most disarming edges to reveal its potency and potential for disruption. Terrence in Trotse Tert, a watercolour by Nabeeha Mohamed, features an exuberant young male figure smoking in a grandiose pink gown. This simple image captures the new wave of meanings pink can encompass; a sweet moment of rebellion. Here pink transcends it’s gendered history and takes its place as a symbol to challenge gender conformity. In Dressing with bed, Stephen Allwright’s gender-ambiguous figures provide a moment of quiet rumination amongst a sea of cerise. This watercolour features an elongated gender-fluid figure in a wash of gentle peach and a lonesome checkered bed in the background. This intimate moment captures rawness and vulnerability encapsulated by blushing tones.
Isabella Chydenius’ woven fabric works introduce darker hues of magenta, mauve and crimson to the room. These unlikely tapestries, made from ripped clothes knotted together to form a soft armour, echoing the wounds and fluids that spill from a violated body. Chydenius’ abjected forms are a stirring reminder of the gender-based violence that is currently ravaging the women of South Africa. The knotting process used to create these pieces is the Artist’s deliberately futile attempt to mend what is broken, like trying to store water in your cupped hands while walking across a desert.
Lulama Wolf’s stylised forms figures in As things change and The excursionists celebrate the freedom of femininity without restriction and imagine where women can live in their truth free from fear. They capture the feeling of this new transgressive pink, without using the colour palette. Her forms are bold, and sturdy and emanate a quiet strength.
Beyond its physical manifestation, pink is also a force of bizarre contradiction. This attitude is embraced in Michaela Younge’s Tim-Burtonesque hair salon scene, aptly titled The atmosphere was tense that day, after the smell of burning hair subsided hairdresser. Here we find a crawling baby in a cowboy hat while across the room a salon hairdryer is on fire. This contradiction is extended in Mira Jaan’s Slow Dance. Jaan’s adolescent figures grasp each other gently as they dance in a rosé-coloured room. Pink’s Not Dead! asserts pink as is a powerful weapon to challenge patriarchy and encourages its proponents to assert their right to flaunt it loudly. But perhaps a more interesting conversation is how it’s strength can also be found its delicate moments; radical tenderness becomes a superpower.
Mia Darling’s plasticine works adopt the visual language associated with young teenage girls bedrooms while unpacking the gazes and insecurities developed in these formative years. Handheld, features a female figure gazing at herself in the mirror, while the viewer also becomes complicit with their own reflection extending the work. We are reminded of John Berger’s observation, “Men look at women…women watch themselves being looked at.” The visual excess of Darling’s works is mirrored in Grace de Kroon’s drawing Cakecakecake. In true Marie Antoinette style, confectioneries are stacked precariously, almost toppling over. Is this perhaps a prediction of society’s insatiable consumption habits and inevitable collapse? De Kroon’s prognosis is clear; heads will roll.
Akshar Maganbeharie continues this celebration of overindulgence in his portrait of billionaire pop-icon Kylie Jenner in You’re $o Money, Baby. Her features are highly stylised and contorted as a concurrent reflection and rejection of reality. Smooth moves by Katharien de Villiers presents a masculine figure in a gold chain with an oversized sticky milkshake and sherbet orange nails to offer an alternative to macho representations lauded by conventionalists. Continuing these dessert tones, Rosie Mudge’s pink sorbet gradient in Missed, VIII is created using automotive paint and glitter glue. This shimmering void offers a resting place for tired eyes and place to ponder and distil the chaos around it. Her works transport us to a heterotopia, not unlike this room, where rules are suspended and there are no restrictions on what is possible.
Pink is intertwined with romantic love. Let’s blame that one on capitalism. Artists Githan Coopoo and Talia Ramkilawan turn this association on its head by unpacking the complexities of modern love through confessional pink text pieces. Coopoo’s amphorae-style clay container reads, “Why is no one brave enough to date me?”, while Ramkilawan’s provides a frank counterpoint with her Hessian tapestry declaring, “I don’t want to fall in love with you I have issues”. In this version of reality, modern romance is a zero-sum game. Except nobody wins, we’re all just left staring at our phones in the dark. Good Good Boy’s baby pink and orange text piece offer a true prayer for our times, “May you be blessed with good head”. Surely this is something we can all get behind?
Pink’s Not Dead! lays bare the paradoxical nature of pink. It is at once heavy with the burden of its history and a robust challenge to heteronormativity. In this visually intoxicating space, we find moments of joy and unbridled imagination, interspersed with the widening cracks of our modern cultural landscape. Pink’s Not Dead! creates a space for artists to imagine an alternative future free from the bounds societal constrictions. The immersive experience of viewing these works in a hyper styled environment creates a microcosm of what a world without unnecessary restriction can look like. Until that utopia of freakishness arrives, we’ll always have pink.
If you want to purchase any of the art in the exhibition Pink’s not dead contact Jana at email@example.com