Vietnam: Behind the Lines

Jessica Harrison-Hall introduces the upcoming exhibition of Vietnamese art at the British Museum.

Television footage and photo-journalism transported the America-Vietnam War thousands of miles away from the battle zones in the remote jungles of southeast Asia into Western living rooms. For the first time in history, a major civilian audience was able to monitor military operations, on the other side of the world, in the comfort of their own homes. Tremendous numbers of people lost their lives in the conflict and the effects of this war will continue to be felt for decades to come. Western journalists, photographers and artists travelled to the battle scenes and their work informed contemporary understanding of the war. Indeed it could be argued that certain images from this conflict ultimately contributed to the cessation of the war in 1975.

Popular imagery associated with the war in the West comes mainly from the numerous Hollywood movies on the subject, such as Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, or Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. The purpose of a new exhibition at the British Museum, however, is to present an unfamiliar aspect of this conflict seen from the other side.

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