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SANDRA ERBACHER

HOW TO DISAPPEAR
a site-specific installation

MARCH 7 - APRIL 5, 2020


Sandra Erbacher’s How to Disappear is a site-specific response to mh PROJECT’s former life as an office space. Erbacher’s interdisciplinary practice explores the open-plan office as an architectural space marked by the continuous operation of disciplinary power. In the contemporary workplace, an open, fluid arrangement of furniture and dispersed lighting is designed to facilitate continuous surveillance, while the study of ergonomics harnesses the body as an object of knowledge that is manipulated, used, transformed, and improved so that its efficiency and economical usefulness can be maximized.

How to Disappear attempts to envision symbolic strategies of resistance to the field of surveillance and disciplinary control in the workplace.

Fold, a 10ft x 7ft vertical office blind, and the centerpiece of the show, is at once a literal and metaphorical tool for obscuring one’s presence. Mounted on its vanes is a black and white image of German Romantic landscape painter Caspar David Friedrich’s painting Der Watzmann. The Watzmann, is a 2,713 metres high mountain in the Alpine region of Southern Germany whose characteristic rock formation of several peaks and sub-peaks has fuelled the local  imagination of generations. According to folklore, cruel leader king Watze terrorized and plundered nearby villages, whereupon God turned him to stone alongside his wife and seven children as a punishment for his bloody deeds. Such was the Watzmann’s power over the imagination that Friedrich, best known for his allegorical landscapes contemplating nature as a portal to another, metaphysical dimension, painted the mountain range in 1825. As such, Fold is a physical visual obstruction, as well as a conjuring of the German Romantic spirit that celebrates as well as fears nature as a place to “lose one’s self”.

The second, floor-based work in the space is Privacy Pod, a 2ft x 2ft x 65in tall, fully enclosed office cubicle, based on iconic office furniture company Herman Miller’s Privacy Pod. Although Herman Miller’s Pod claims to offer a “sound-proof, private space” for the open-plan office, it is virtually transparent on two sides, essentially framing and staging its user and thereby exposing them to heightened surveillance.

Erbacher’s offering, by contrast, is fully enclosed by four fabric covered panel walls. It is sealed off without as much as a door to access it, and stands tall enough to provide complete cover for a person at the center of its structure.

Borrowing from such eclectic sources as German Romanticism and the sublime, as well as the history of office design, Erbacher’s methodology of deconstruction does not attempt to offer a more egalitarian alternative to existing workplace design. Instead, How to Disappear invites us to explore and imagine invisibility as a poetic strategy to escape the continuous surveillance defining the contemporary workplace and, by extension, society at large.