Paying attention to the layered meaning evoked by texture, arrangement, and juxtaposition, Minh Duc Pham’s practice subverts what may be a visitor’s first associations with delicate materials. Reflecting on issues of identity in its intersections of gender, race, and class, Pham displays the capacities of flowers, paper cuttings, fabric or clay, to symbolize vulnerable histories and acts of empowerment, self-determination, and social mobility. As the firstborn son of Vietnamese contract workers living in Saxony, his work is informed by an upbringing marked by enormous pressure to adapt and excel, and a later urge to refuse assimilation into the discriminatory and violent environment experienced by many in Germany. For Echos der Bruderländer, he contributes the installation Fountains of A High Mountain and A Sweet Dream (2024), consisting of a porcelain well with ceramic details, lily scent, and the audio sequence of the performance A High Mountain, A Sweet Dream (2023), addressed to women from the brother countries working as contract labourers in the GDR who were subject to systemic reproductive injustice. Contractually bound, if they became pregnant they were forced to undergo terminations or otherwise be deported to their home countries. Pham’s work gestures towards the memory of the isolated yet resilient Vietnamese workers who lived through this chapter, which has been poorly addressed or accounted for in the history of East/West Germany. With its fragile yet powerful presence, the fountain inside the installation exudes a quiet beauty; its constant flowing of water evokes life cycles, remembrance, and the continuous labour of coming-to-terms with the past.

Commissioned by Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), co-produced by Minh Duc Pham and HKW, 2023–24.

Fountains of A High Mountain and A Sweet Dream is activated through a performance by Minh Duc Pham on 18 May

Work in the exhibitionFountains of A High Mountain and A Sweet Dream (2024), installation with porcelain fountain, ceramics, table, chairs, lily scent, and sound composition. Courtesy of the artist