Bringing together a group of scholars, cultural critics, and writers, this panel explored Thomas Bayrle’s long-standing inquiry into the relationship between mass media, political spectacle, and consumerism. The conversation took up Bayrle’s interest in how cultural modes of production, distribution, and consumption shape individual desires and, when aggregated on a massive scale, reveal systems of power that pervade even the most mundane aspects of our daily lives. Panelists include Josephine Meckseper, Christine Mehring, and Sarah Nicole Prickett, and the conversation was moderated by Bettina Funcke.
The panel was organized on the occasion of “Thomas Bayrle: Playtime,” the first major New York museum survey of Thomas Bayrle (b. 1937, Berlin, Germany). Bayrle is one of the most important artists to have emerged during the West German economic boom in the 1960s, and has received belated recognition for his influential works and processes. Long before the advent of current visual technologies, he foresaw our digital reality, employing photocopy machines and other midcentury tools in his early works to create analog visualizations of what we now understand as digital culture. Bayrle’s thematic investigations have ranged from a visual analysis of mass culture and consumerism to reflections on how technology impacts global politics. This comprehensive survey brought together over 115 works, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, wallpapers and prints, early computer-based art, videos, and 16mm films.