Norbert Bayer | 白宁瑞

Suzana Sucic: A Day With Mr. Ministeck

A Day With Mr. Ministeck

by Suzana Sucic

I’m so excited.
Not because I grow wrackingly nervous over meeting Norbert Bayer the artist known as Mr. Ministeck at the Maou-Maou gallery in Berlin this afternoon. The only man who would make my heart jump and my voice tremble would have been Arthur “Boy” Capel, Coco Chanel’s heart throb, taking me out to a picnic on a juicy meadow in the south of France.

No, I’m excited, because Mr. Ministeck, the prince of pixel and plastic pieces promised me a glamorous night out. But before he has to give an interview to the local television in Berlin. He has been obsessively covered by the press, since his art is both: quiet extraordinary in his conceptual approach and yet an homage to the beginnings of digital design in the early 80ies. It’s the design of computer games of the first generation, the c-64 Touch Screens which he converts into analogue pictures, put together by tiny plastic pieces taken from a children’s mosaic set from the 60s. Digital goes analogue.

I arrive at the gallery; the TV team is already there, they look terribly bored since Mr. Ministeck has not turned up yet. He arrives half an hour late looking a bit unnerved. He comes straight towards me and hands me a plastic pixel pic showing an OUT trash can ” I’m flattered. Then he turns to the camera team not without rolling his eyes and giving a deep sigh: he hates the press since “they always ask me the same questions, want me to do the same things in front of the camera: first I have to sit on a table and complete a little plastic mosaic, then I have to hammer it on a wall. It makes me wanna puke”. He tells me that after the shooting, looking utterly bored. It has been the same procedure as usual: he completed a tiny plastic mosaic and hammered it against a wall. After this pathetic, done-it-a-million-times performance he has to do an interview with the pubescent, nerdy reporter. The interview goes like this:

NR=nerdy reporter: “Where do you live?”
MM=Mr.Ministeck : “I live in Mitte.”
NR: “Isn’t that too expensive?”
(Subtext: for a creepy little artist like you are?)
MM: “I pay 550,00 DM for 17 qm, but then I do not have to spend money on taxis.”
NR: “Do you live above a cab enterprise?”
MM: “No, but everything’s happening in Mitte.”
NR: “Well in Berlin you can comfortably travel with the BVG, the Berlin public transport.”
(Subtext: you think you’re something better, to good for the tube, ha?)
MM: Remains silent.
NR: “Mmh, when did you start doing Ministeck?”
MM: “Four years ago, I rediscovered Ministeck and one year later I started to plasticize pixelpics of C-64 Touch Screens.”
NR: “Aha. How come you consider this as art and not as toys?”
MM: remains silent.
NR: “Can you live off your art?”
MM: “Name me one 26 year old artist who can.”
NR: remains silent.
After a pause
NR: “What do you think of people who redo your pictures?”
MM: (while turning away from the camera and looking at me in horror)
“These people should buy themselves loose plastic stones at the flea market.”

The interview is over, but the crew now wants to go to a record store to shoot the last sequence. Mr. Ministeck is not amused and turns away with a concrete facial expression. The record store sells his CD. It’s a mini CD, a compilation starring Frederick Schikowski, Stereo Total, Pink Noise and others who make music using C-64 game music or computeresque digital tunes. The CD comes along with a miniature Ministeck that shows six images taken out of the classic computer game Pacman.

We decide that I better not come along to the Record store, since Mr.Ministeck knows what the TV crew is about to show: Norbert, who flicks through various CD’s and ends up picking his own one. So I go off until we meet up for the glamour part: I’m giddy with excitement. Before I leave the gallery I get a present from the owner: the fine young lady hands me a big bottle of Vodka and two tiny bottles of lemonade.

Two hours later we meet up at the Bergstüb’l: a cross between a brothel (red lights, threadbare sofas) and an old-fashioned pub (oak bar decorated with drunks), scruffy but cosy.
“One can judge the quality of a bar by its toilets” says Norbert while rolling a spliff ” he finds the toilets here o.k.. We smoke the spliff and become friends with the bartender Santiago from Mexico. We become so friendly that I want to present Mr. Ministeck’s present to our Latino fellow. In a daze I discover that it’s gone. “This was my first model, which I made at home at my family’s living room table in Kassel.” I flush like a tomato, but Mr. Ministeck’s reaction is noble: “I’m going to make you a new one.”

But at that stage we are already pissed at Santiago since he listens to the worst! Mainstream Salsa . We ask him for something electronic, which means in this case digital hardcore or electro punk. But no way: Bergstüb’l is not that progressive and the people are so dozy, they make you want to cut your wrists. We already enjoy thrilling booze after two Bailey’s and four bottles of the fine “Rothaus Tannenzäpfle” beer.

Our conversation started in German, skipped slightly into English and ended up in Italian, which Mr. Ministeck took five years in school. We talk about Designer Dikes, lesbians who look like femmes fatales and behave like them “there are not many of them, Julie Burchill is one. I loved her autobiography “DAMN, I WAS RIGHT”, since it exactly expresses what I felt coming from the boring art school in Kassel, where all my dull colleagues were smirking about my art. I’m doing my ministeck art now, they couldn’t shrink me.” And he does so successfully. After exhibitions in Lisbon and London there is one coming up in Madrid. “The surrounding for my pictures is very important, people tend to believe that my art is cute. But it is not. It has a serious thought behind it: it’s conceptual art which does not look totally constructed, it has the look of pop art.”

Our table is now covered with empty bottles and a full ashtray and Mr. Ministeck expresses explicitly that he needs a trainee and it should be considered in the article. After this has been said, we decide to change the location. We visit a friend who is working on DVDs. It’s time to open the vodka bottle. I create a brain shrinking, stomach twisting cocktail with the funky flavoured, fluorescent Fanta bottles. We have another spliff and feel like singing. It’s time for Karaoke: we decide to go to the Kumpelnest, a former etablissement, a former hot spot and now something like a joke, which is throwing its last karaoke party. But before we have another toxic cocktail.

After a long taxi ride singing Italian love songs from the bottom of our lungs, fuelled up with pink party liquor, we somehow manage to arrive at the Kumpelnest. It’s full and “it seems the people here have been practicing at home in front of a mirror for tonight,” whispers Mr. Ministeck in my ear after seizing the stage and the pity people singing on it.

We decide to sing Adriano Celentano, but he is not registered in the catalogue, neither are Albano and Romina Power. We’re a bit disappointed, since we only want to sing in Italian. We give up on that idea after not even finding Eros Ramazotti. So we end up choosing Sonny and Cher with “I got you babe” for our duet. For our single performances I chose Blondie and Mr.Ministeck the Pet Shop Boys with “West End Girls”. Five minutes later he discovers The Smiths with “How soon is now?”, a song he definitely prefers, he decides to sing it shortly after. After signing up we’re eager to get on stage.

Half an hour later, 30 minutes of painful patience left behind us it’s me, Lily-Rose, being allowed to get in front of the drunk audience and sing my favourite Blondie song. I put a lot of effort into it and spice my highly energetic performance with a children’s electric guitar solo ” the crowd is cooking. Briefly after my Blondie interpretation Mr. Ministeck is standing on stage: thin as a stick, his body covered with a wool sweater showing all the six Images of the ANALOGUE EATS DIGITAL cd running over his breast. An arty pullover knitted by a lady who calls herself the female born “Die Ackerhallenfrau” exclusively for Mr. Minsteck.

His performance is like his personality appears to me: passionate, but yet detached, sober but with a naughty twinkle in his eye. His stage show is very stylish and like all gay men, he knows the lyrics by heart not having to look onto the monitor.

Now we’re Karaoke infected; holding the quickly finished beer bottles tightly in our hands we constantly sign up for new songs without even having sung Sonny and Cher’s smash hit yet. When we’re both asked on stage, I feel a bit tipsy and it is getting worse: fifteen minutes later, while Mr. Ministeck is paying tribute to the Carpenters I’m pushed over the dance floor by a hyperactive lesbian. Then I perform Madonna’s “Express yourself”, expressing merely my aggression against the granny of Pop by yelling “I hate Madonna” and suddenly everyone in Kumpelnest is jumping up and down screaming “We hate Madonna”.

It’s getting late: Mr. Ministeck and the drunk remains of myself sing B-52′s “Love Shack” full blast into the microphones. When Norbert sings Stereo Total’s “Schön von hinten” I’m trying to have a conversation with a deaf man, who ends in wild French kissing and light petting.

It’s getting late, we’re tripping home and all I can think of is the vegetable lasagne Mr. Ministeck promised me. It’s a leftover from Sunday, when it is tradition for Norbert to cook his favourite dish for his roommate Pink Noise who is his “treasure”, and the remains from Saturday night. The lasagne is always done by 6:30 pm. So they can eat and watch the German version of the Coronation Street, the “Lindenstrasse”.

The next morning I wake up with full eye makeup and shoulder-length earrings, Mr. Mini?steck lying next to me. “What should I say, if someone asks me, if we…?” I tease Norbert while having breakfast with him while listening to a Dusty Springfield CD. “Well, tell them that we tried.”

more texts about Norbert Bayer in English:


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

Fabrizio Bianchi:
Modern Mosaics

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