The loosening of tongues is inevitably made easier with good drinks, especially those designed to distill as an elixir for the creator’s most memorable spaces and characters.
This is the essence of Freunde von Freunden’s recently launched ‘Loosen Tongues Bar Night’ series, which invites artists, authors, musicians, architects, filmmakers and designers to intellectually bare all, while showcasing their work and devising a signature cocktail menu tied to their oeuvre and biography.
For the inaugural Loosen Tongues—described as FvF’s magazine gone live—Berlin-based artist Simon Mullan kicked-off the series with an immersive exhibition of his works in the Friends Space: his now-famous, stripped down bomber jackets hung at the entrance like skinned game, while a curtain projection of a bomber-clad gymnast juggling bricks divided the space. Mullan’s more elegant bomber byproducts—black jacket fabric stretched over frames and gridded like tiles—were installed behind the artist as he spoke with Welt am Sonntag style editor Adriano Sack about the working class roots of his practice.
“Though Mullan’s work operates in the often exclusive milieu of the art world, he tries to bring elements of the daily grind into his practice, romanticizing and nearly fetishizing the figure of the worker.”
During the conversation, we learned that the aforementioned juggler is one of Mullan’s alteregos, Viktor: an oiled-up raver he met at a club once, who embodies something in Mullan’s personality that never materialized, something he couldn’t or didn’t dare to become. Many of these kinds of characters loom in Mullan’s work: the tiler, for example, is the working class hero behind many of his creations. While Mullan clearly uses tiles in his artworks for aesthetic reasons, the simple, widely-used material stands, for him, as a symbol of a kind of menial work he admires, not least for its conceptual accessibility. At abc – art berlin contemporary last year, Mullan erected his ‘Monument for the Common’ (2016)—a white-tiled monolith, part of his ‘Popularis’ series—in the courtyard outside the art fair. He told us that he’s attracted to art in public space, having grown up in Kiel, Germany, where his first interactions with art involved encountering public sculptures while waiting outside a shopping centre for his parents.
Mullan’s unpretentious youth and upbringing greatly inform his practice: his father was an Irish shipbuilder stationed in Kiel, before he met Simon’s German mother. Now they are both social pedagogues teaching children with special needs in Vienna. Though Mullan’s work operates in the often exclusive milieu of the art world, he tries to bring elements of the daily grind into his practice, romanticizing and nearly fetishizing the figure of the worker. For this year’s Art Berlin fair, where he was represented by local gallery Dittrich & Schlechtriem, Mullan installed his piece ‘Schutt und Asche’ (2017), a neutralized industrial trash container, commonly found next to construction sites. He remarked that this work represented a departure for him, away from his sleek tiles to something more rough, prompting the inevitable reaction: “…but is it art?”
“At one point, Sack asked Mullan to account for the ‘masculine’ nature of his output, leading to an insightful discussion around homoeroticism and its relationship to the male builder figure.”
Adriano Sack’s pithy and pointed questions allowed the Loosen Tongues event to live up to its name, gently and humorously coercing Mullan into revelations and reflections buried deep in his works. At one point, Sack asked Mullan to account for the ‘masculine’ nature of his output, leading to an insightful discussion around homoeroticism and its relationship to the male builder figure. Mullan drew our attention to another video, in which, this time, Viktor is pole-dancing.
The bomber jacket also encompasses this twofold fear and awe directed at signifiers of masculinity, which tend to be loaded with aggressive connotations. For Mullan, the bomber jacket is the “uniform of fear”, harkening to his teenage years in Vienna when neo-Nazis clashed with skaters on the streets. The jacket, worn by the neo-Nazis, then gained popularity amongst hipsters in the 2000s, and Mullan found himself wearing one. Fascinated by the progression of this fashion symbol—different from country to country—Mullan began to feature the garment in many of his works and performances. Tropes of masculinity, from the camp raver to the dreaded neo-nazi, seem to represent facets of a life path he could have chosen, alternative arteries in his biography.
Music from the evening
Tunes selected by artist Daniel Hoflund
Whether in an installation, video or textile work, Mullan is preoccupied with the aesthetics and signifiers of the working class, mediated through a host of unseen characters: the tiler, the construction worker, the raver, the extreme-right fascist, the graffiti writer, the skater. Over the course of his conversation with Sack at Loosen Tongues, he began to unpack these elements as if it were a public psychoanalysis session, revealing the personal connections inherent in these embodiments and proving once more the insightful effects of mixing alcohol and art. Food was prepared by Berlin-based company Mäkish (a Swedish slang word for sandwich). Olga and Kegen served their salmon sandwiches on bathroom tiles to underline the Simon Mullan aesthetic for the evening.
Mullan’s signature cocktail recipes, created in collaboration with Diageo World Class mixologists, picked up on the artist’s typically Viennese, dry sense of humor: “Vienna Calling” riffed on a favourite drink of the Austrian architect Adolf Loos, colloquially known as a ‘fein gespritzt’ and traditionally featuring wine spritzed with champagne instead of sparkling water. This time the combination was even more lethal: vodka and champagne. Here, you can find a recipe for the garish mélange:
Simon's Vienna Calling Cocktail
Ingredients (for one drink)
2cl Ketel One Vodka
4cl Ponthier Pear Purée
1cl Rose‘s Lime Juice
Combine the vodka, pear purée and lime juice cordial all together in the shaker with ice cubes.
Shake it and strain with a fine strainer before pouring into the cocktail glass. Top up with champagne and garnish with pear, Red Williams or something similar.
FvF is always keen to showcase our creative community and no better way than to welcome them into our own Friends Space. The regular Loosen Tongues Bar Night will introduce a range of creatives, from artists and authors to designers and filmmakers. Each will partake in the evening by presenting new insights to our community, in collaboration with Diageo World Class.
Thank you, Simon, for being our first artist to kick off the Loosen Tongues Bar Night. We loved the bespoke cocktails created especially for the night. Additional thanks to Mäckish Official for the delicious sandwiches that they provided as well as Dittrich & Schlechtriem Gallery for their support with this first-ever Loosen Tongues event. For more from the Friends Space Bar, see how it was created here.