Thursday, January 22, 2009

Controversial Art Damaged by Protestors

’The Duc, Viet Nam’ by Brian Doan was damaged by protestors

I recently posted an article about a protest involving an exhibit involving Communism. Over 300 protestors met outside of the controversial F.O.B. II: Art Speaks exhibit sponsored by the Vietnamese Arts & Letters Association Center in Santa Ana. There have been several disturbances at the gallery do to the controversial theme of the exhibit and the fact that it took place in a location near a Vietnamese American community.

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 African Americans wearing Ku Klux Klan (KKK) hoods would not take place in a predominately black community.

The actions of the protestors has sparked debate concerning what should be expected from curators as far as being responsible for the exhibits they manage. The story has caused a wildfire of comments from individuals online. Some support the exhibit as the perfect example of the freedoms shared in the United States while others have suggested that the exhibit was nothing more than a reckless publicity stunt. Some feel that support for the exhibit reveals that the “scars” within the Vietnamese American community are not acknowledged when compared to the “sensitivity” that is involved in discussions-- both verbal and visual-- involving the history of African Americans and other minority groups in the United States. One anonymous forum commenter stated, “if it involved slavery and the KKK the organizers would have been charged with hate crimes.”.

What is your opinion? Should artists, curators, and gallery owners be held responsible for damage that occurs due to protestors if the work displayed is overly controversial? Should the First Amendment 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? Should parts of history be "off limits" until the generation that experienced it are long gone? What say you?

Links of Interest:

Vietnamese Americans protest art exhibit in Santa Ana -- Los Angeles Times

Vietnamese Americans Protest Controversial Exhibit Exploring Communism

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor
www.myartspace.com
New York Art Exchange
www.nyaxe.com

7 comments:

Ian Talbot said...

I don't see what the fuss is about but as a Brit living in London how could I possibly share the sensitivities of those who felt strongly enough to protest. In other words I can express my opinion but that doesn't make my opinion right or as valid as the opinions held by those more closely involved with the issues raised.

If the work is to be continued to be shown then perhaps the marks of protest should be left on them so that visitors may contemplate both the works themselves and the strength and causes of the opinions of those protestors who have registered them with "damage" to the works themselves.

That, I suggest, really would be "thought provoking" art and maybe the ensuing debate would enable all views to expressed and weighed up.

josephbolstad said...

"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 African Americans wearing Ku Klux Klan (KKK) hoods would not take place in a predominately black community."

When considered in any detail. these comparisons don't make much sense. The KKK is an example of a terrible ideology being carried out in terrible ways. Compare this to communism, which is an arguably noble ideology which has led to revolutions that involved bloody conflicts and horrific actions. Any comparisons drawn between these histories are confusing at best and entirely misleading at worst.

Donald Frazell said...

It has nothing to do with ideology, communism or fascism. Comparing this to the atrocities and exterminations of the African diaspora and American slavery, and the Holocaust is sick, and reveals an unballanced mind.

I already compared this to its true equivalent, the Cubans exiles of Bautista in Miami, and the later Mariel boatlift, to the mass exodus of Vietnamese peasants well after the fall of Saigon. The first of each refugee groups were the officials and backers of the previous decadent, ruthless and ineffective governmetns based on coups, not democracy. Oligarchs furious they got tossed, by a rabble mob as in ancient Greek times, though a Monarchy has not and will not arise as the third phase.

These are the angry people, those who lost their privileged positions. The second waves are upset also, and want to return, but not of the voracious nature of the first. I know those of both being here in LA. The first wants to go back to rule, teh seocn to go back and start businesses in land they loved. To see their families.

Their are exceptions of course, but they serve to prove the rule. Both of these governments stil exist, and are in the process of changing greatly. The reactionaries of these first groups being the only ones holding back the reconnection of peoples, the establishment of government relations. And evolution of those lands, when they can become part of the world fully, they have already with most nations, just not us, the most powerful and land of the largest popultions of imigres.

The photo can be easily replaced, it has served a purpose, its not art anyway, but a social document. Others can now view the arguments and decide for themselves, hardly as with the Nazis and Slavers of America. The younger generation will decide, for both groups. Sometimes, you just gotta let the past die away to move on. This may be the case here. But dont you DARE compare true evil to being the losers of a civil war.

ACDE

Balhatain said...

Ian, I think it is an issue of time. For example, you are British--- I doubt that people in the US would be upset today if they viewed a photograph involving an American teen wearing the Union Jack while sitting near a bust of the Queen. Those 'scars' are long gone. However, if a painting (no photography at the time) like that had been exhibited back then it would have caused a lot of rage.

"If the work is to be continued to be shown then perhaps the marks of protest should be left on them so that visitors may contemplate both the works themselves and the strength and causes of the opinions of those protestors who have registered them with "damage" to the works themselves."

From what I've read Brian Doan is going to do what you have suggested with that specific piece. He has stated that he wants to use it as a symbol of free speech.

Balhatain said...

Donald said, “It has nothing to do with ideology, communism or fascism. Comparing this to the atrocities and exterminations of the African diaspora and American slavery, and the Holocaust is sick, and reveals an unballanced mind.”

In the minds of the protestors it can be compared. You have to remember that many in the Vietnamese American community view Ho Chi Minh on the same level as Hitler.

Donald said, “Sometimes, you just gotta let the past die away to move on. This may be the case here. But dont you DARE compare true evil to being the losers of a civil war.”

I think time is the issue. Evil takes on many forms and is often left to decide by the eye of the beholder. Obviously the protestors view it as evil or they would not have been so upset. The protestors represented different age groups-- from the elderly to teens. However, one does have to keep in mind that the thoughts of 300 or so does not reflect the position of the entire community.

I think the main issue is that people need to understand that if you live in a country that has many freedoms you have to accept that others share that freedom-- which may mean that they will uphold their freedom in a way that you may not agree with.

If we start being overly selective those freedoms, as a whole, will quickly crumble.

Lafiette said...

In this country the right to self expression is protected by our Constitution. At the risk of sounding harsh, maybe those who can't handle that reality should not be citizens here and I think the protesters overacted.

To artists: I say start taking responsibility for the images you create. Don't take emotionally charged subject matter, use it to create your work, and then not have a reasonable explanation for why you created it. I can not stand that about artist. It's not enough to believe that art should speak for itself, because complex and emotionally charged subjects will illicit a wide range of reactions and it isn't fair to viewers to yank their psychological chain just because some flaky artist thought it would be cool to shock and dismay onlookers. Take some responsibility.

Donald Frazell said...

And just maybe many of those protestors participated in a govren just as evil, if no more so, than the current one. Its more that they supported a Fascist government that was replaced by a Communist one. They lost, and everything they owned or had stolen, many were probably old families with wealth, and so felt entitled to their positions in their culture.

Diem, and then his successor by murder and coup Thieu were scum, who used the US in our global battle against Comunism, the Cold War for their own agrandizement. Thieu stole much of the gold of South Vietnam when he fled to Hawaii, cowardly not staying to fight, as had Bautista. These people of course hate the curent govenment, they lost to them. And though neither the current Government of Vietnam or Cubas are great, Ho Chi Mihn's legacy and even Castros are a leap forward compared to the previouos regimes. It just that Communism leaves you stuck in time, and there is no development, it is an industrial age economic system, long left behind by more advanced economies.

So their anger is obvious, but not particularly jsutified. These communities need to work it out, no us. This is one step in it, and again, sometimes you just gotta left the old die off, like the Jesse Helms of the South. its the only way things evolve, not change completely or for the perfect good, but to move on, and let wounds heal. These folks are the ones keeping it fresh, not the young. They are slowly taking ove,r as with us getting over the Baby Boom fixation on vietnam, time to move on. Bigger fish to fry now, get over it.