Published Mar 07, 2015The cancellation of an upcoming Viet Cong concert in Oberlin, OH, due to the Calgary group's "problematic" band name has led to much debate this week on the nature of art, appropriation and intent. With UK post-punk outfit Gang of Four having faced similar concerns over their band name earlier in their career, guitarist Andy Gill has now weighed in on the current controversy with some thoughts of his own.
As previously reported, Ivan Krasnov, the promoter of Oberlin College's Dionysus Disco venue, had cancelled Viet Cong's concert on March 14, having apologized to the college community "for inviting a band with a name that deeply offends and hurts Vietnamese and Vietnamese-American communities." Viet Cong are named after the army that fought against the South Vietnamese government and the U.S. during the Vietnam War.
Krasnov added that, in light of student protests at Oberlin during the '60s and '70s, letting Viet Cong play "would be in complete disregard of Oberlin's radical history and of the values it professes to uphold," and further branded the naming of the band a "blatantly appropriative move, reinforcing a tradition of American (and Western) orientalism and appropriation."
Gang of Four had faced similar accusations in the '80s, with their band name alluding to four officials of the Chinese Communist Party who stood trial in 1981 for committing treasonous crimes during the Cultural Revolution. In regards to the recent actions against Viet Cong, Gill has questioned moves to moralize band names in the name of public interest. He suggested such policing was "undemocratic."
"It's a little ridiculous to ban bands for their name," he said in a statement to Brooklyn Vegan. "We can all think of dozens of bands with really quite offensive names and as soon as you get into being the guardian of public morality, taking it upon yourself to decide what's ok and what is not, you are acting in an illiberal, undemocratic and anti-progressive way."
He added: "People should be treated as grownups, capable of making their own decisions . We should not be deciding for people what we think they are capable of understanding or not. Artists; film-makers, writers, musicians need to be un-censored so they can make their point, political or otherwise."
You'll find info on Viet Cong's slightly altered tour schedule here. Gang of Four are also out on tour, and play Toronto's Lee's Palace on Monday (March 9). You'll find the rest of their tour details here.