Commodification of dissent

Task 5: A discussion of an image or artefact that was created in the context of protest/activism, but was appropriated by commercial culture.

To Build And Defend Ash-Grey Tshirt

Pretty much any poster or slogan used during the Vietnam-war period can be redesigned and used in today commercial culture. These commodities usually take form of fashion, decoration or souvenir. The abundance of them on Hanoi streets is yet, another everyday common scene as Hanoi is a highly attractive destination for tourists. Yes, that means these goods were made to be sold to tourists, mostly American specifically. The questions are: why they’d buy a t-shirt that portrays the image of a half-broken air-craft craved with USA flag – an artefact of the war?; what is this that being offered to them? Let’s exclude those who decide to splurge on this for the sake of curiosity or simply as a gift. For those who consume it on a daily basis and consider it as a part of their lifestyle, what are they looking for? And what are they trying to say? A Style? A statement?

Everyone who knows of Vietnam War is familiar with the ‘Cong’ concept. ‘Cong’ is also the name of a very popular coffee chain in Vietnam. They are not only simply selling products printed with ‘Cong’ elements, but they also adapt the concept with its every manifestation: from the logo design, the use of colours, the vintage 50s-60s furniture to a rack full of culture and art books published decades ago. They are trying to bring back the atmosphere of a long-gone period. The objects on display are real, physical objects; but their values, their stories have been weathered with time. Yet they are most popular among the youth culture, those who were born far after the chaotic period; and perhaps, do not even bother to have a look at their history book because they are often seen too busy taking selfie or typing on their new updated smartphone. 

A corner of Cong Ca Phe

Maybe they just like the style or the colour. Maybe they just want to be a part of something. Something ‘cool’. Something they are not.

List of images:

To Build And Defend Ash-Grey Tshirt. Available from: http://www.cafepress.co.uk/+vietnam-propaganda+t-shirtsa (Accessed 18 November 2015).

Cong Ca Phe. Available from: http://musicshow.vn/user/congcafe_u366 (Accessed 18 November 2015).

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