’The Duc, Viet Nam’ by Brian Doan
A not so peaceful protest occurred over the controversial F.O.B. II: Art Speaks exhibit at the Vietnamese Arts & Letters Association Center in Santa Ana. The exhibit, which contains works by over 50 artists, offended some members of Vietnamese American community-- many of whom endured great struggle due to Communism in Vietnam.
Those involved with the exhibit have stated that the works on display were not supportive of Communism-- pointing to the fact that several of the images in the exhibit had been banned in Vietnam. However, supporters of the protest claim that the exhibit was ill conceived due to the fact that there are over 158,000 Vietnamese American residents in Orange County-- many of whom escaped communist rule in Vietnam in order to embrace the freedom of living in the United States of America.
A photograph titled ’The Duc, Viet Nam’ by Brian Doan took center stage over the controversy. The controversial photograph by Doan involves a Vietnamese woman with the sitting next to a bust of Ho Chi Minh. The lone woman is wearing a red tank top that bears the yellow star of the Vietnamese flag. The photograph had been defaced-- apparently by protestors-- with a splash of red paint.
Brian Doan was quick to respond to the controversy concerning the meaning of the photograph and the reactions of the Vietnamese American protestors. Doan stated that he his goal was to foster commentary among youths in Vietnam who grew up after the Vietnam War. He now plans to display the controversial photograph as a symbol of his freedom of speech in the United States.
Doan stated that the first generation of the Vietnamese American community needs to accept a diversity of opinions and viewpoints in order to move forward. He stressed the fact that the history surrounding Communism in Vietnam is a shared experience that the second generation of Vietnamese Americans are exploring in their own way. The organizers of the exhibit have displayed strong support for Doan and his controversial photograph by stating that image is a critique of Communism.
Many of the protestors-- which were over 300 strong-- wore military fatigues. Some protestors chanted “Go back to Vietnam!” outside of the exhibit. Others took more direct action by destroying images of the Vietnamese flag. Children stomped on the flag of Vietnam while supportive adults stood near.
Critics of the exhibit have stated that the artists involved with the controversial exhibit were merely seeking publicity rather than fostering dialogue about the historical implications of the Vietnamese American experience. One observer noted that the organizers should have known that factions in the Vietnamese American community would take an aggressive stance against an exhibit involving Communist ideology even if it was intended to be a critique. Others suggested that Vietnamese Arts & Letters Association had stabbed the Vietnamese American community in the back.
Those involved with the protest felt that a similar controversial exhibit would not have taken place near other minority communities. For example, one rights advocate stated that a photograph of a young Jewish person wearing a Nazi symbol standing next to a bust of Hitler would not have been displayed in a heavily populated community of Holocaust survivors. Others have suggested that an exhibit involving the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) would not take place in a predominately black community.
What are your thoughts on this exhibit? Do you think the organizers craved publicity? Do you think their intentions were true? Should artists, curators, and gallery owners be held responsible for damage that occurs due to protests if the work displayed is overly controversial? Should freedom of expression be upheld even if a minority group is hurt in the process? Would the exhibit had been shut down before opening had it involved a different minority in a similar context? What say you?
Links of Interest:
Vietnamese Americans protest art exhibit in Santa Ana -- Los Angeles Times
Nearly 300 Protest Communist Images In Art Show Associated Press-- Los Angeles Times
Take care, Stay true,
New York Art Exchange