To and fro as a method, the exchange of arguments and
ideas, of ambitions and reinforcements, must have also had an impact on
Bayrle's classes. If you listen very closely to how the professor talks,
you find out a lot about how he teaches. He almost sings his sentences. He
feels his way forward, carefully assessing individual phrases, somewhat
reminiscent of the way Adorno spoke. After using the word "mature," for
example, the artist stops talking, weighs up the expression and then looks
for an alternative, because it sounds too worn, "mature." Instead of
talking about his "pupils" or "students," he prefers to say "my young
Then his speech sounds more carefree again, more
youthful, is riddled with Anglicisms. But Bayrle, who co-founded the
Gulliver-Presse publishing company in the sixties, is never careless or
sloppy when he talks. He uses verbal imagery, similes, metaphors. Often,
he pits one principle against another dialectically, for example,
melancholy against imprudence, and finds a third: composure. Many things
become relativized as he speaks, and rearranged right after they are
spoken. "I'm amazed," says Bayrle, "that there's still a piece of paper
under the piece I thought was the last."
Bayrle, Stadt, 1976, © VG Bild – Kunst, Bonn 2008,
The artist as professor,
in Bayrle's case that means: breaking new ground with dialog. Nothing is
given, nothing can be imparted as a block of knowledge from speaker to
listener, from teacher to student.
Bayrle sees himself in the
tradition of Chinese philosophy. Sometimes (though very rarely), he feels
something should remain unspoken. While he doesn't like to make the
business of teaching sound too mysterious, he says that in some cases his
choice of students is simply intuitive. For this reason, he always wanted
to see the candidates and not just their work. "It was important to me
that they had had an existential experience," says Bayrle, "for artists,
life experience is an island they can always return to. If it's not there,
everything floats." Before studying with Bayrle Silke
Wagner was a nurse, Phillip
Zaiser a blacksmith, Thomas Zipp a baker. "They had all experienced
something," their former teacher remarks.
Bayrle, Rimini II, 1974, © VG Bild – Kunst, Bonn 2008,
however, life experience or unusual expression manifests itself in the
candidates' work after all. Sergej Jensen undermined all the formal
conditions for entry and submitted a two-by-two-meter oil painting, a
portrait of his mother. "In that case you could also see there was a lot
going on," Bayrle says, and still does today.
is one of the most well known artists who studied with the professor ("But
he would have become famous even without me," says Bayrle). The Städel
graduate, who today himself teaches at the Städelschule, still vividly
remembers the entrance examination. There were two selection committees,
he says. One consisted of rather ethereal staff, while the other was made
up of "popish people" like Bayrle, and Rehberger's works, which were often
confused with design, fared better with the latter. "Who knows whether I
would been accepted otherwise," the Frankfurt artist says today.
Freitag, 1987, © VG Bild – Kunst, Bonn 2008,
In the orientation class
led by Thomas Bayrle, Rehberger found confirmation that the professor was
a "good guy who said strange things." And later, when his teacher was
given his own class, Rehberger attended it. "Because he was open and could
understand many things. He tickled out what was inside of you."
Bayrle is more modest about this: "Actually, I only created an atmosphere.
Like yeast in a cake." In this approach, says Bayrle, art is a "funny
idea," an idea that a teacher has to help along. The other half of the
work consists of cleanly giving the idea material form. For Bayrle,
craftsmanship is not something stupid that has to be learned, as the
reactionary grumblers claim, but an experience of materiality. Something
that comes after all the talk and after the idea.
class as a "continual massage," being available so that threads can be
woven further at any time - for this you also need a certain self-image as
an artist. Thomas Bayrle (and this even becomes apparent in a short
conversation) does not embrace the popular ideal of the authentic,
suffering artist, whose prototype is embodied today by, say, Neo
Rauch. The Leipzig painter, who also recently stopped teaching, often
moaned that art schools were "time-obliterating aggregates." As he nodded
off at faculty meetings, he heard from his studio the "laments of torsi in
unfinished paintings who were waiting for arms and legs."
Bayrle, Sternenauto, 1970, © VG Bild – Kunst, Bonn 2008,
No laments can be heard
in Thomas Bayrle's studio. He looks for the Golden Mean, like the Chinese,
the artist says into the silence. No matter whether in children's
education, in class at the art school, or in the production of his own
works. Tobias Rehberger will later say on the phone that as a teacher he
"is a little tougher than Thomas, somewhat more direct to the students.
Thomas was very nice to everyone." But that's not meant as criticism. It's
a question of disposition, and perhaps also a question of the choice of
words. For instead of "nice" you could also say "composed."
Bayrle's will present his work at the Museum
Ludwig in Cologne from October 24, 2008 to January 25, 2009. Tobias
Rehberger's show "the-chicken-egg-no-problem" will be on view at the
Museum Ludwig until September 21. In addition, works by Bayrle will be
shown at the MACBA
in Barcelona from February 6 to April 19, 2009.
Bayrle, Hofbräu, 1969, © VG Bild – Kunst, Bonn 2008,