As early as the 1950s, Vietnamese already came to the GDR to learn in factories and workshops within the frame of the government programme “Bruderhilfe” (Fraternal Assistance). Even if it was officially claimed that the main aim was to strengthen the economy of the countries they came from through the knowledge the contract workers acquired here, the high immigration rate in the 1970s and 1980s was based on an increasing manpower shortage in the GDR. The Vietnamese workers were mainly used in the textile industry and for assembly-line work. Many of the Vietnamese living in Halle today are still employed in the garment industry. The Vietnamese-run mini-markets offer not only groceries and decoration items, but often tailor services for clothes and textiles as well. The rhetoric of know-how to support a rising economy thus attains an almost ironic twist: Fixing and mending things that have become worn out through use can also be understood as undermining profit maximising systems.
Eric Sandillon’s project comprises outdoor posters that visualise the business and production sites of a community whose representation in the townscape is rather subdued. Furthermore, the posters present shirts that Sandillon has mended and darned, and which are put in relation to statistics and personal information. The project makes reference to the continuing invisibility of a history that is characterised, on the one hand, by exploitation, ghettoisation and manipulative representation, and on the other, by adaptability and autonomy under insecure post-Socialist conditions.