Sandra Erbacher is the most recent winner of the city of Madison’s Blink grant for public art awarded by the Madison Arts Commission. I kept this part away from you will be displayed on a digital billboard on the Beltline Highway in Madison, Wisconsin, from 14th January – 3rd February 2013.
I kept this part away from you is a snapshot of an internal landscape. It is a photograph of the opening of a battered, old cardboard box, whose function is translated into the realm of the symbolic.
The box and its placement along the Beltline speak of a sense of movement, of being in transit from one location to another. The work echoes the artist’s own migration from Germany, her country of birth, to London, England, where she lived and studied, and finally to Madison, Wisconsin, where she now resides and works. The formal dislocation of the image and object mirror not only her autobiographical displacement but also the movement of passers-by, who are in transit from their homes to their workplace, or to meet and spend time with family and friends.
The quiet image of a humble, discarded object, translated into an iconic scale brings these in-between spaces to our attention in a surprising way, while revealing their inherent uncertainty as well as their potential for intimacy and renewal. It creates a moment of stillness and suspension in our lives, which are so often governed by speed and movement.
Formally, the image vibrates between the illusion of landscape and the representation of an object. Its spatial segmentation into an earth-coloured foreground and a cool background divided by a horizon line echoes not only a classical landscape but also connects the viewer to the surrounding landscape they are traversing at this particular moment in time.
Artists such as Felix Gonzales-Torres have historically used the billboard as a medium to create site-specific installations and as a tool to communicate in the most direct way with their chosen audience. Displaying an image of a discarded object that has outlived its use-value on a billboard, a tool of communication reserved for the marketing of products earmarked for consumption, creates a subtle sense of disruption that opens the door for further contemplation.
Sandra Erbacher (b. 1978, Germany) originally studied Sociology and Cultural Studies and graduated with an MA and BA from Goldsmiths College, London, in 2003. Her interest in critical theory as well as contemporary art led her to pursue a BFA in painting at Camberwell College of Art, London (2009).
Her multidisciplinary practice evolves from a symbolic act of translation: the dislocation, fragmentation, and re-contextualization of visual signs. The resulting works are held together by threads of connectivity that generate a precariousness in meaning and obscure the notion of origins.
Her work was featured in ‘Global Positioning System’ at the School of Visual Arts, NYC and in ‘Lightning Strikes Twice’, Circuit 12 Contemporary, Dallas (2012). Further exhibitions include ‘So here we are’ at Kunstverein Speyer, Germany (2011), ‘When family fails’ at Umbrella Gallery, Leeds (2010) and ‘Free School’ at Five Years, London (2010).
She is the recipient of a University of Wisconsin Fellowship, winner of the city of Madison Blink Grant 2012 and is currently studying towards her MFA at UW Madison.