Air brakes screeching, a truck comes to a halt uncomfortably near to our taxi on a busy Barcelona street. Thomas Bayrle nods at one of its giant wheels and says: ‘See that tyre? That’s what’s interesting to me.’ Knowing of his craze for traffic and roads – understood as metaphors for the complex systems and superstructures that control and organize us – I realize he’s not being ironic or flip. Take, for instance, the sculptural wall relief $ (1980), which consists of a model, dollar-sign-shaped cardboard motorway interchange dotted with plastic toy cars and trucks as scrupulously positioned as the coloured squares on Piet Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie (1942–3). Bayrle was in Barcelona for a retrospective of his work at the city’s Museu d’Art Contemporani (MACBA) titled ‘I’ve a Feeling We’re Not in Kansas Anymore’. The artist and I had just met for the first time and it was immediately apparent what a generous thinker and beguiling talker he is. But with this statement he seemed also to be making clear to me that the thoughts on art, politics and people that he offers and happily debates, are grounded in personal observation, in telling details lifted from the real. Later, I started thinking about all the billions, perhaps trillions, of tonnes of rubber rolling around on asphalt in clouds of exhaust fumes. And about the fact that the most visible signs of the economic integration and expansion of the European Union are not blue flags with yellow stars, but the endless processions of trucks that run along its roads, connecting the continent to the arteries of global trade.
more from Dominic Eichler at Frieze here.