Karin Sander is born in Bensberg, North Rhine-Westphalia in 1957. She begins her training in 1979 at the Kunstschule Stuttgart, in 1981 she changes to the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Stuttgart. Sander spends a year (1989/90) at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in the context of an independent study program.
The conceptual investigation of phenomena concerning body and spatial perception is one of Sander’s early artistic interests. After studying painting, she makes sculptures from the mid-1980s onward that position living persons formed over with clay (Lehmfiguren, 1985). The living actors themselves create a clay shell around their bodies, their positions are oriented towards horizontal and vertical basic architectonic measurements, which they assume in a space. Sander further pursues these three-dimensional body positions that presume a spatial sensitivity on the part of producers and recipients in the group of works entitled Stationen (1986). Here again, schematic recognizable photo sequences that are attached serially and in small format at the height of the floor molding, demand the slow, visual »touching« of a body imitation.
The crossing of the body through spaces that are reduced to geometric experience also occupies the artist in the following years. Here too, wall, floor, and ceiling determine the limits of perception, as with, for example, Mauer in 1987. In 1989 she uses the wall as pictorial motif, by confronting the perceptual habits of seeing pictures with those concerning spatial location (Zwei Räume, 1989). Soon her first works are created with white, clearly delineated, frameless picture fields on the walls, whose polished surfaces produce mirror-like reflections that irritate spatial perception.
In the work Wasser (1990) the idea of the reflecting water mirror is translated and varied one more time: the lower, regularly moistened part of a wall surface becomes a mirroring projection surface. Interventions and commentaries of museum space are also further developed by the artist in city space projects. She thus furnishes apartment complexes in need of restoration in the Polish city of Lodz with glowing white passages, White Passageways (1991). In the Museum of Modern Art, where the artist exhibits in 1994, Sander installs a completely polished Projektraum that serves as passage hall. The polished walls and ceiling appear now through the glimmering projections of white to be clearly separated from the immediately adjacent rooms. An entire room of irritated perception is created, subtly transforming the museum structure. Further works concentrate on an imaginary generation of space, a space one cannot enter (Fenster, 1991; Guckloch, 1993).
With her fabric room created by Sander in 1992 on the occasion of her first individual museum exhibition in the City Museum Abteiberg in Mönchengladbach, the artist again sets the limits of the museum space with regard to its location specific perception. She reproduces the exhibition hall with muslin, obscuring the architectonic limits of the room along with its vertical and horizontal edges. The possibilities of gaining access to the room are considerably reduced, it is transformed into an inhabitable »muslin cocoon«, i.e.»cover« (Elvers-Svamberk 1992).
Sander’s conceptual reflections of museum space appear especially comparable to designs by Daniel Burens. For example, in her work Vier Raumstücke (1995), museum rooms are blocked off and partially rendered inaccessible by white cubes one cannot enter. Here she most emphatically stages the unquestioned effect of the »White Cube« – that apparently neutral space context of museal presentation. In contrast to Buren’s works, Sander does away with recognizable features, in order to more successfully obscure her authorship. She develops her works out of the conditions given in the museum itself.
The conceptual distancing and alienation effects for the visitor in the museum space find a decisive continuation in Sander’s most recent group of works. Her 3 D body scans (e.g. Antonia & Elisa 1:10, 2000) make digital sculptural reproductions of selected persons possible. In the act of creation the models can determine the parameters of their whole body likeness through clothes and posture, etc. The scale of 1:7,7 or 1:10 is the artist’s only given. Here the work of art’s dependence on the museum visitor presents itself in its most radical form.
Karind Sander teaches at the Kunsthochschule Berlin Weißensee since 1999.
Karin Sander: Ausst.-Kat. Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, hg. v. Gurun Inboden, Ostfildern-Ruit 2002
Karin Sander: Ausst.-Kat. Sprengel Museum, Hannover, 1995
Schreier, Christoph; Umland, Anne u.a.: Karin Sander, Ostfildern-Ruit 1994
Dylla, Sabine; Stockebrand, Marianne; Welzer, Harald: Karin Sander, Ostfildern-Ruit 1993