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Vietnamese art exhibit puts politics on display

The show opening in Santa Ana purposely includes communist symbols, a bold step that curators hope will provoke discussion and tolerance of different political viewpoints.

January 10, 2009|My-Thuan Tran

"I wanted to make the connections with Vietnamese artists that have been banned in Vietnam and this kind of repression that we face here in terms of voicing political opinions," Duong said. "The forms of censorship are not equivalent, but they are similar."

Choosing pieces for the exhibit was not easy. "We kept asking, 'Are we being sensitive enough for the community, or will they be so hurt when they see this that they are not going to be part of the conversation?' " Le said.

Mindful of the pitfalls, the curators decided to have statements from artists explaining the pieces, along with panel discussions and a curator walk-through.

"We felt in the end," Le said, "that we could not self-censor ourselves even at the risk that it may offend somebody."

The curators are both part of the so-called 1.5 generation of Vietnamese Americans, who were born in Vietnam but immigrated to the United States at an early age. They see their role as bridging the gap between the first generation, many of whom lived through the war, and the next generation, who may not understand the experiences of their parents.

"We have this freedom of speech in this country that allows us to put on a show like this," Le said. "If we can't have a show here, where can we do it?"

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my-thuan.tran@latimes.com

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