Thomas Bayrle: If It’s Too Long—Make It Longer

Thomas Bayrle: If It’s Too Long—Make It Longer

MAK – Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna

Thomas Bayrle, $, 1980. Private collection. Photo: Wolfgang Günzel. © Bildrecht, Vienna, 2017.

October 24, 2017
Thomas Bayrle
If It’s Too Long—Make It Longer
October 25, 2017–April 2, 2018
Opening: October 24, 7pm
MAK – Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna
Stubenring 5
1010 Vienna
Hours: Tuesday 10am–9pm,
Wednesday–Sunday 10am–6pm

T +43 1 711360
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The MAK Exhibition Thomas Bayrle: If It’s Too Long—Make It Longer, named after a quote by the architect Eero Saarinen (1910–61), develops a narrative around the interaction between communication design, the individual, and society. The museum’s collection becomes the projection surface for Bayrle’s interpretation of “social fabric.”

Influenced by op art (Victor Vasarely, 1906–97) and pop art (Andy Warhol, 1928–87), Bayrle is one of the first to connect traditional craft techniques with the computer-generated art of the digital age. He cultivates a close artistic friendship with the concept artist Peter Roehr (1944–68): the Frankfurt Trio with Charlotte Posenenske (1930–85) is interested in geometry, the serial, mass production, and industrial society.

With its role in defining the social and political order, the economy is put forward for discussion by Bayrle in his works on paper. It is in early montages that Bayrle first designs patterns serially as an image and decodes modules of communication in everyday objects. Via exhibitions and happenings, he transfers the ornament as a code into the world of fashion and consumption.

Bayrle finds inspiration for his dialogue with the ornament in the writings of, among others, the sociologist Siegfried Kracauer (1889–1966) from the milieu of the Frankfurt School. In his text “The Mass Ornament” from the collection of essays of the same name (1920–31), Kracauer draws the masses as the supporters of the ornaments, themselves formed by community, whereas the mass ornament reflects our present age and the capitalist production process. As mass particles, humans can draw bodies, define tables, or operate machines—perspectives that also cast a spell over Bayrle. His questioning of the construct of the “mass man” and political systems links him with the political theorist and philosopher Hannah Arendt (1906–75).

Metaphors of dyeing, weaving, and programming expose the ambivalence of art, craft, industry and give rise to kaleidoscopic shapes—mass ornaments. Bayrle’s “superforms” reference political, industrial, and cultural icons such as Jesus, Mao, the highway, the smartphone, and the cup, thereby mirroring our everyday lives. With a stage set based on a Japanese shunga by Nishikawa Sukenobu (preliminary study from ca. 1720) from the MAK Asia Collection, Bayrle places a “superform” made of iPhones in the center of both the museum and the exhibition. Architecture and backdrop, the digital, analog, and ritual spaces are interwoven.

Alongside a recent work for the Hartmannswillerkopf memorial site in Alsace for soldiers who fell there during the First World War, Bayrle also developed a Viennese tapestry after Michelangelo (1475–1564). Drenched in blue and knotted by hand, the image area of the pietà is created using smartphones—simultaneously ornament, symbol, apparatus, and adornment. A gallery of pietà studies captures the atmosphere of historical and contemporary political events. To produce the tapestry, Bayrle experimented with textiles as a medium and cooperated with a weaving collective from Aubusson in Limousin (France), where weaving in collectives has connected the craft with the seams of European history for six centuries.

Weaving as a concept becomes evident in Bayrle’s paintbrush and stamp variations—pictorially and sculpturally intertwining boxboard and analog Photoshop works, which illustrate reproduction processes. The apparatus of the camera functions as a missing link to the smartphone. This “organigram” or schematic of artistic production references Gottfried Semper’s (1803–79) theories of practical aesthetics.

Punch cards were developed to repeat sequences automatically according to a pattern; the Jacquard loom is a machine operated by dotted cardboard cards. This system became the model for the first computer programs with which—like weaving with the machine—any pattern can be generated. Bayrle’s collages anticipate the design process of such digital imaging programs: the elements of the image are broken down, processed in several steps, and provide the templates for print. Furthermore, he condenses the omnipresent subject of the highway into a mesh of political agendas. When visiting a canteen of the automobile manufacturer Opel, plastic cups—produced and consumed industrially by the masses—catch his eye. The result: sculpture.

Curators: Nicolaus Schafhausen, Bärbel Vischer

This exhibition was produced in cooperation with Phileas – A Fund for Contemporary Art. 

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MAK – Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna
October 24, 2017

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