S2S spoke to Clara Fohrbeck one of the founders of the project who developed the idea, due to the fact that she herself used to work behind the Bar of betahaus Berlin.
S2S: How did you come up with the idea for bartenders? Was there any special experience you had working behind the bar of betahaus?
Clara Fohrbeck: Yes, actually my colleague Jennifer Fahrenkrog and I were standing behind the counter and making coffee, when we started a conversation about the exhibition that was currently going on and we both agreed that we would love to look at more exciting pictures while working. And I had an interesting talk with Gwendolyn Noltes, who is still working at betahaus café and also is active as an artist. She was searching for an opportunity to exhibit her work. This was like ‘Hey, okay, we are all working here in the café but actually we would love to do something else – Gwen being an artist, Jennifer a graphic designer and me personally having studied art management. This is how the topic of our project Bartenders Berlin came to life –we wanted to give other bartenders and café baristas the chance to present their talents.
S2S: For the exhibition “Bartenders Berlin” at betahaus you chose five artists to exhibit the work they do outside of the environment of a bar scene. How did you choose these artists?
Clara Fohrbeck: It was a difficult process – first, we started visiting a lot of bars. We talked to many different bartenders who are artists. Yet it was difficult to get a hold of people like that – maybe because a lot of them were more connected to their bartender persona than to their artistic identity when they were standing behind the counter mixing drinks. I started visiting some in their studios, which was a quite interesting experience. We than started an open call for artists. Within the process of selecting we realized that there was one specific topic that seemed to connect all the artists we were interested in: ‘The aesthetic in everyday life’. We chose those artists that had a specific perspective of the banal, of everyday life situations.
S2S: Was there an interesting story you heard while interviewing the different bartenders that stands out in your mind?
Clara Fohrbeck: I loved the fact that bartenders can be anything. I remember walking through bars by myself on a Sunday evening – actually the best time to get a chance to chat with the bartenders as the bars are often empty – I had a really interesting talk with a bartender who is a psychotherapist. He works in a bar to stay connected to a more trite way of getting to know people – in the end we had a really interesting and deep conversation about how to live life and why artists often loose themselves in their bartender identity.
S2S: What feedback did you receive after the exhibition at betahaus?
Clara Fohrbeck: The night was great! There were more visitors then we could have ever imagined and a lot of nice conversations about our project. Jenni and I are not working in betahaus café anymore, but Gwen received a lot of positive feedback behind the counter: people liked the idea of getting to ‘know’ the two sides of the exhibitors- their personalities as bartenders and artists. We also got very positive feedback on the visual harmonization and the professional presentation of the work. People did not only like the art, but also the story behind it.
Clara Fohrbeck: Kottie Paloma was born in Los Angeles, but he also lived in New York for a while. My parents lived in New York for four years, so I know the city a litte bit. Mmmh. Yes, there is a certain vibe that certainly connects the cities, something improvised, and schizophrenic. But New York moves a lot faster and it is much harder to get by there just by working in a bar. So, I think the concept of being a bartender and an artist – and actually having time to work on your art – is much easier to realize in Berlin – in New York it used to be like that – in the 80s. That is why there are many New Yorker expats that have moved to Berlin.
S2S: I personally really like the concept and your idea to give people working a job, that doesn’t 100 % match their true passion, a platform to present another version of themselves. Where do you see yourself headed with this idea?
Clara Fohrbeck: We certainly collected a lot of stories and photo material of the artists and we do not want to see it going to waste. So there might be another exhibition coming soon! Maybe we will also combine it with musicians who work as bartenders…
S2S: Can we expect to see more artwork from Berlin’s bartenders and could you imagine to carry this idea out of the borders of Berlin?
Clara Fohrbeck: Yes, we will keep you posted on our facebook page and our homepage www.bartendersberlin.com! And we might carry this idea outside our city – as soon as one of us goes travelling, I guess 😉