Food for the dead2020 – ongoing
„Honour your ancestors.
Set up a home altar.
Offer fruits and light incese sticks.
Remember your grandfather on his deathday and prepare him his favourite meal.“
This work is about honouring traditions and rituals, while at the same time questioning its position in our current times and place, as well as its history and its development. How can we continue certain traditions in a modern world – how can we adapt? What has changed and what does our modern life need? Can these rituals and traditions help us in our modern world?
The series is exploring the tradition of worshipping and honouring ancestors, the mourning process of losing a beloved one and what meaning food brings to the process of grieving.
The work consists of research material, photographs of Thi My Lien Nguyen’s family archive and her own images.
Three Grains of Rice and Some Gold
exhibition, 02/06 – 17/07/22 at Coalmine Winterthur
In 2022, I put together a first exhibition of this body of work, which is still very much ongoing and a work-in-progress. The show focuses on the tension and duality of being multicultural, dealing with loss and grief and thinking in cycles.
Next to the show, I activated the installation with a shared dinner experience in addition with a guided tour by the curator Annette Amberg.
exhibition documentation by Guadalupe Ruiz
Mời, mời2021, performance and installation view at Jungkunst 2021 in Winterthur
In «Mời, mời» Nguyen invites the audience to dive into her interpretation of the diverse experiences of secondas and secondos. With this multimedia project Nguyen highlights the issues around Asian hatred and tries to dismantle the model minority myth by questioning the Asian stereotype. Nguyen explores these issues visually and performatively, using food and the act of commune eating as a way to invite the audience to a discourse and to collaboratively unlearn our views on “the other” and the unknown.
The performance took place twice.
During the performance the artist prepared a full meal on location and served a table to offer her ancestors. Within these hours a space has been established where visitors of the exhibition were getting in touch with the artist. Asking questions, starting conversations. The audience was then invited to join the artist in the worshipping ritual, after she briefly explained the context and the steps to go through the ritual. Then the meals were enjoyed with an invited group through an open call, where questions and stories around the meaning of food, traditions, rituals and identity were discussed and exchanged.
video documentation by Dylan Wiedler
photo documentation by Raisa Durandi
Ở ĐÂU, Ở THỤY SĨ2020 – ongoing
Ở ĐÂU, Ở THỤY SĨ means literally «Where in Switzerland?». Being of Vietnamese descent can mean many things. For me, it’s being drawn to certain objects, places, and lived experiences among people of Vietnamese heritage. My country of origin remains a mystery. Despite my urge to understand, it somehow feels very difficult to access, to connect, to be part of.
This curiosity drives me to search, discover, question and dig in everything I find and see. In spaces and places, in books, in stories, in people — even in me. During this process I face a lot of barriers. Some laid by others, from outside, some by me. Sometimes they feel like heavy stone walls, sometimes like light curtains which are easily shoved to the side.
This series shows my approach to reflect my position in the Viet- namese diaspora in Switzerland and allows the viewer to have an insight into a diasporic community in Switzerland.
Combining archive and my own photography, this body of work aims to shed light on the lived realities of a marginalized group which often go unseen in the Western mainstream media.
Makét 02: From Here On Out
photobook published by Matca in Hanoi, 2022
Four artists explore what matters to them at a specific point in time, be it a visual experiment, reflections on memory and belonging, current socio-economic forces within the personal realm – these topics do not stand alone but often intersect with one another.
In fleeting nightscapes, Nguyen Duy Tuan comes to terms with his private grievances and the stifling ordinariness of small-town life. Now hidden away from public view, the animal-infused liquor jars portrayed by Binh Dang are further mystified and elevated into urban legends. A self-described “no-land man”, Nguyen Dinh Phong captures whited-out real estate boards imposed on deserted backgrounds, which then become a self-fulfilling prophecy when the pandemic takes its toll on his tourism-dependent adopted city. Thi My Lien Nguyen attempts to map the Vietnamese experiences in Switzerland, going great literal lengths in search of people and things connected to her home country.
Makét 02: From Here On Out
Produced by Matca, co-published with The Gioi Publishing House
Year of release: 2022
Number of pages: 234
Size: 14 x 20cm
Language: Vietnamese and English
Print run of 500 copies
More info here.
In the wake of the Vietnam War, Thi My Lien Nguyen’s family fled from Laos to Switzerland in 1979. The Swiss-born Vietnamese enjoyed a pleasant and carefree youth. Nguyen grew up in the 2000s, the new millennium in which globalization brought quotidian trans-culturality and products from all cultural realms of the world to Swiss daily life. Nguyen’s desire to appraise her cultural background grew with the years.
In a calm and respectful way, Nguyen examines the subtle cultural, national and ethnic influences, which mark her life, putting three generations of her Swiss-based family center stage: her grandmother, her mother and finally herself.
Nguyen asks her two female ancestors in the motherly line about their concepts of Swiss culture and compares these with her own. She also asks herself which Vietnamese cultural values are important to her, next to her Swiss identity.
Like Nguyen, many descendants of immigrants live within two cultures, that of the homeland and that of the land of immigration. Nguyen’s photographic project offers an insight into the life of a young Swiss Vietnamese living within, with and between two cultures. Based on her selection of images from the family album and her own photos, she shows the development of her own family’s post-migration background. Editing images, documents, histories and memories of her own family, Nguyen developed the visual narrative of her photo book, which was graphically designed by Sven Lindhorst-Emme and Mats Sander of studio lindhorst-emme, Berlin.