The Vietnamese Arts and Letters Association (VAALA) pulled a Santa Ana, California exhibit about freedom of expression in the face of significant community protests. After a week, the city ordered the exhibit F.O.B. II closed.
Protestors focused on one work in F.O.B. II, a photograph of a young Vietnamese woman in Vietnam wearing a T-shirt with the symbol and colors of the Vietnamese flag sitting next to a bust of Ho Chi Minh.
Both the building and the photograph were vandalized during the week, and hundreds of anti-communist protesters from across the state converged on the exhibit and disrupted traffic for a protest.
Curators of the exhibit wanted to launch a discussion about freedom of expression in the Vietnamese community by including works with a spectrum of political viewpoints. The Vietnamese American community has had a history of intense protests, sometimes violent, against any representations or symbols of contemporary Vietnam and its current government.
A number of Vietnamese Americans who can to see the exhibit have spoken against the protests and their own freedom to judge for themselves had been destroyed.
The VAALA exhibit included over fifty artists and was held in their new center. They admittedly knew that “there would be protests against us,” arts advocates must also have a voice if the protestors have a voice. It nevertheless claimed success in facilitating dialogue in a press conference after the close of the exhibit. VAALA is a non-profit Southern California cultural organization.