Norbert Bayer | 白宁瑞

Norbert Bayer: Just what is it that makes it so different, so appealing?

Just what is it that makes it so different, so appealing?

by Norbert Bayer

published in: LUDIC SOCIETY, GoApe Issue #2 Feb 06, p. 18/ 19, ISBN 3-902389-01-X

If Ministeck would have existed in the 20ies, the surrealists surely would have liked it: on the one hand oldfashioned and outdated and on the other hand highly modern and futuristic. When they were visiting second-hand markets their way of explaining their choice for a certain object was blaming the subconcious.
Playing with Ministeck doesn’t mean working with the reality, i.e. the plastic pixels. It’s about dreaming. It’s a bio-drug. Not the material itself of course, but the state of mind it puts you in. Scientific researches have proven that monotony and repetition are highly addictive. That’s the point which makes it really attractive for me. After you have designed the image to do it means that you just have to sit at home and do work which doesn’t disturb your mind too much. And which keeps the thoughts floating endlessly in your mind.

Is Ministeck, or puzzles and mosaics in general, really a game? A game is considered to provide fun and an end which is not pre-defined. With Ministeck the result is clearly defined, unless you don’t use a pattern and put one pixel after the other on the grid like the old masters of painting did. Doing it this way after a long time with the method of trial and error and tons of hope you might receive the image you had in mind.

In the days of the goldrush of the internet-industry, while doing an internship at now dotcom-dead Pixelpark, I realized that the work I was doing now at my computer was the same I had been doing as a child whilst doing ministeck: Arranging pixels on a grid. At the computer it’s the grid of the bitmap-file which in the “real world” is represented by the grid and the plastic bricks of Ministeck. I was inspired by the musician Pinknoise who uses sounds similar to or sampled from C64 games. So why not start working with images taken from C64 games, as their colour-depth matches the palette of Ministeck.

A major revolution was going on at the time: in the creative field it became more and more impossible to work without a computer. The enthusiasm of the masses for “everything goes with a computer” was reflected by a few with a nostalgic view on what seemed to get lost forever. It evoked the wish to create something new with the outdated material and giving it the nimbus of a posh and glamourous technology, for example like Vinylvideo which stored video images on vinyl records. [1]

Ministeck wasn’t being produced any more at that time, which made it even more attractive for me. I browsed the classifieds in papers – back then the search engines didn’t deliver any usefull results – for families whose children had moved from the house and who wanted to get rid of their toys. Once I drove 300 km to buy three very big boxes of Ministeck – I was very lucky. Every weekend I checked the second hand markets with the hope to find more of those old Ministeck-images.
It seemed like a lost technology, which was very Zeitgeist like it was reflected in the contribution of dutch design-studio Experimmental Jetset for Emigre which was called “Lost Formats Preservation Society” and listed mediums which were about to vanish or had already passed. [2] Who of you can remember what an Advanced Intelligent Tape is?
My way of joining the future-conservatism and mixed-media hype was the start of “miniNT” in 1999 – a call for entries. (The name referred to the latest release of Microsoft’s Window which was called NT as “New Technology”.)
” ‘Everyone is an artist’ the Fluxus pioneer Joseph Beuys used to say. SO: be creative! Send us any picture that pops up in your head! Use graph paper or the computer or both, but consider the size! Maximum: 32 x 32 pixels or squares on graph paper. We will transfer your sketch to Ministeck AND to a folder-icon for the computer. Ministeck? It is a sensational new technology fresh from the eighties! It’s plastic passion, yeah! There’ll be a travelling exhibition with the pictures and free download of the folder-icons on the homepage gallery. Don’t leave everything to the course of time: pull up your sleeves and get giddy with the help of Ministeck!” [3]

[1] VinylVideo
[2] Emigre 57, Winter 2001 and Experimental Jetset
[3] You can find images of the “mini NT live” performance at

more texts about Norbert Bayer in English:


Fabrizio Bianchi:
Modern Mosaics

Prof. Dr. Ursula Panhans-Bühler:
Raw Or Cooked: Mister Ministeck’s Pixel Turn

Suzana Sucic:
A Day With Mister Ministeck