May 31, 2018

Pink Progression Empowers Audiences & Artists

By Danielle Cunningham Tierney

I’ve seen an awakening since the last presidential election, and this awakening has led to grassroots organizing around topics that people have been trying to bring to the forefront as long as I’ve been alive. As a result, I’ve noticed the revealing of invisible facets of identity, such as gender, that are so deeply embedded in social structures we often believe they occur naturally. Even though the notion that gender is constructed and performative has been the subject of decades of theoretical work, I see the average person beginning to translate these ideas into their own language by questioning what it means to be male or female, or even wondering if human beings need to fall into a gender category at all.

In my relationships, I am also seeing lots of intergenerational thinking around physical interactions with other sex/gender expressions. In a conversation I had recently with my dad, he mentioned he has become sensitive to his practice of hugging everyone, which comes from his friendly and welcoming demeanor. He now realizes this physical contact, though well-intended, may not be okay with everyone.

These transitions have not been seamless, though. Many topics are still controversial and polarizing; hence, the development of countermovements like the pro-2nd Amendment protests and #notallmen campaigns. I’ve even been in community conversations lately where men are revolting against the idea that women bear social and cultural gender-based burdens exclusively, emphasizing that men also experience sexual harassment and discrimination. These conversations have allowed me to seriously contemplate straight white male perspectives, of which I have often been dismissive.

At my core, I believe extreme change only comes from extreme behavior, and if we aren’t expressing our concerns loudly and consistently in public forums, we cannot achieve the transformations needed to ensure that people have equal access to fundamental human rights. We all have to get involved, no matter how hard it is, no matter how many ways our entrance is barred, which it undoubtedly is for many people. We have to ally with those whose privilege grants them access, and use their privilege to express our concerns.

Postcard Call for Entry


Pink Progression, which was inspired by the Women’s Marches, precisely activates this thinking. Anna Kaye’s curatorial vision focused on bringing artists to the show through what was effectively a game of telephone. One person told their friend about Pink Progression, then they told another friend, and so on in a manner that granted artistic privilege to people who may not have had a direct relationship with the curator, or the cultural capital to be included in such a large, prominent show. In fact, this is exactly how I became an exhibiting artist in Pink Progression, as I was invited to collaborate with MSU faculty member, Natascha Seideneck, on an intersensorial installation in CVA’s projection gallery.

Kaye’s vision has also spread through a postcard call for entry open to anyone able to create a postcard with a message expressing their personal vision for the future and mailing it in. With the postcard call, Pink Progression empowers an audience outside that inner circle of artists, underscoring its grassroots origins, while speaking to a broader, contemporary art theme of viewer participation. Effectively, the audience creates this facet of the show and drives a narrative that, though separate from Pink Progression, is inextricable from it.

  I urge everyone to create a postcard. I made one, and honestly, because the format is small and open, it was a really liberating way for me to intersect my political interest with my current art historical work on gender identity, postcolonialism, and cyborg theory. The process of making also inspired me to contemplate a future series of work centered on the topic, and begin developing my ideas for upcoming graduate work this fall.

  You can see my postcard below, along with a template for making your own. Please get involved, and encourage others to do the same. Although the deadline for this installment of Pink Progression postcards has passed, you can still send yours in since the exhibition is ongoing.


Danielle Cunningham Tierney is an artist and writer, and student co-curator of Reclamation, an exhibition running concurrently with Pink Progression in CVA’s student-run 965 Gallery, May 31 - Aug. 18, 2018.