GRIN - How do you decide on your materials? It seems that they often include the domestic object – does this come from a personal place, is it the product of observation, or both?

SANDRA ERBACHER - The objects presented in my work come from personal experience, encounters and observation. Growing up in Germany during the 80s has definitely informed my choice of objects. They have a slightly outdated, nostalgic feel to them, yet they represent the efficiency and orderliness stereotypically associated with the country.

The materials or medium chosen to present these objects depends on what I would like to communicate at any given time. At times a seemingly cool, removed photographic presentation may seem the most appropriate form, at other times a sculpture or experiential installation might be the more succinct embodiment for an idea.


GRIN -  Where do you live? Where do you work? Are these places the products of convenience, calculated choice, or necessity? Do you see yourself in a different place 5 years from now?

SE- Providence, RI. I used to work in the spare bedroom of my apartment out of necessity, but this has turned out to be utterly impractical and unsuitable for any photographic or larger work. So from January this year, my husband and I share a studio at Fountain Street Studios. Not any specific place but onwards and upwards.

GRIN-    Utilizing relatable subject or material often amplifies a viewer’s interaction with a work. What level of consideration do you place with this reaction during your process?

SE- At first, the objects I use may often seem very cold, detached and difficult to relate to on a personal level. Additionally, they may be presented in a very removed way, for instance, using the photographic style of commercial stock photography, institutional material such as white laminated wood or cool neon lighting. However, I purposefully try to introduce a sense of humour and playfulness into my work to act as an access point for the audience, well as a critical tool to trigger a thought process or questioning of the status quo or the deeper meaning of a work.


An administrative or social system that relies on a set of rules and procedures, separation of functions and a hierarchical structure in implementing controls over an organization, government or social system.

Sandra Erbacherʼs latest works examine the institutional as an abstract, formless, and bureaucratic entity. The objects incorporated in her work, whether photographic or sculptural in form are typically found within an institutional setting: an ordinary office plant, cream-coloured carpeting, a standard beige box fan, or a uniform, avocado green wall-mounted telephone. The sole purpose of the existence of these objects seems to be to organize human activity, to maximize efficiency, maintain order and thus aid in the imposition of a rule-based hierarchical system of rational control.

What happens though, if said objects refuse to conform to their standard mode of operation? This is the question at the heart of Erbacherʼs inquiry. Her objects are activated through material interventions and, as a result, display a rebelliousness that could potentially pose a threat to the institutional order: A carpet covering a gallery wall with an anarchy symbol shaved into its fibres; a larger-than-life photograph of a small box fan filled with concrete; and an HVAC system that emits a muffled version of Roxetteʼs ʻDangerous’. Instead of promoting an efficient work-flow, Erbacherʼs objects are unruly. They break down, become dysfunctional and fail to fulfil their purpose. Yet it is exactly their failure that holds their potential to subvert the systems and structures they are supposed to perpetuate from within.

Sandra Erbacher is a German artist living and working in Providence, RI. She has earned her BFA from Camberwell College of Art, London (2009) and her MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2014). She has exhibited nationally and internationally, at Grin Providence, the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, the Chazen Museum of Art, Madison, Mana Contemporary Chicago, Circuit 12 Contemporary, Dallas, The Contemporary, London, Kunstverein Speyer, Germany, Umbrella Gallery, Leeds, and Five Years, London. She is the recipient of the 2014 Chazen Prize to an Outstanding MFA Student, a University of Wisconsin fellowship and the Blink Grant for Public Art 2013.

She is currently represented by Grin, Providence.