Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Debate over Communist symbols in Orange County art exhibit

Follow up to Art group portrays Vietnamese symbols on canvas

Source: LA Times

A provocative art exhibit that opened on the outskirts of Little Saigon this weekend got a strong reaction from some Vietnamese Americans who were offended by the pieces of art that featured Communist symbols.

The exhibit, commissioned by the Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Assn., displayed works that included Communist symbols, the flag of the fallen country of South Vietnam and artwork that has been banned in Vietnam.

The curators wanted to start a discussion in the Vietnamese community, where talk of politics other than staunch anti-communism is taboo and any hint of associating with Communists, whether perceived or real, can erupt in street protests.

Yup. People don't want to see it. It may seem paranoid and often silly but that's how they feel. If you let tolerate one thing, they'll keep advancing.

There were some heated calls to take the photo down. In the meantime, someone has spit on the artwork and made a scratch through the glass on top of the photo. But the photo did spark a discussion between the arts group and the members of the Vietnamese American community who saw the piece as hurtful. "We left our home country because of the regime of the Communists. This art brings back memories of the hurt and suffering of our people that still pains us today," Phuong Le of Canoga Park told exhibit organizers Sunday. "When you judge art, you have to view it in history and see that these images only open wounds that continue to hurt us."

The organizers have refused to remove the photo. "We considered what they had said, and we felt that this was still something that should be up for discussion," said Tram Le, one of the co-curators. Le said that some Vietnamese Americans who came to see the photo did not find it to be offensive.

Some Vietnamese community members have threatened protests if the photo is not removed. Vietnamese community leaders are meeting today to discuss what action to take next.

This will get ugly very very soon. Maybe they'll burn it all down.

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