Reinhard Ermen

They produce images – incessantly. Even when EVA & ADELE aren’t parading themselves in front of a bemused public, they create their images and remain together. They welcome visitors to their studio dressed in a small uniform – something which is also part of their imagination work. At the same time they leave images in the mind. Perhaps the public imagine how these two inseparable people interact when the door has shut. Occasionally photographs help to inspire such ideas. Eva Maria Ocherbauer shows EVA & ADELE at home staring at a vanity mirror with a pink frame, while the two of them willingly open up the cupboards to Anna Maria Potocka, the director of MOCAK (Museum of Contemporary Art Kraków), allowing her to photograph a view inside their spacious dressing-room.1 The ‘Berliner Zimmer’ (Selftimer) shows the double bed, pink in pink, while lingerie and other erotic props complete the setting of this life-long action. They appear in their ubiquitous regalia in the lavatory in Hotel Drei Könige in Basel2 – in this case in Wings II costumes. The photo allows conclusions regarding how the body can be used and what it means to get the basics done while adorned with wings. There’s no separation between art and life is what the images say, including those in the minds of the viewers. Art is everything, art is what we are – and that’s demonstrated by their performances, in which they appear as living sculptures. They show nothing but themselves, namely EVA & ADELE, who claim to be from the future, even though they exist in the flesh, in the here and now, exercising an absolute presence. Their statements disarm even the most inveterate sceptics: “Our smile is a work of art.”3

It all boils down to a ceremonial variety of concept art – and why not? The photos taken of them by curious passers-by are collected and meticulously archived, manifesting “the spreading of the image” as an artwork.4 The audience play along. They’re really only allowed to take pictures if they agree to send them to the two women who are the cause of the photos in the first place. Viewers become contractual partners, employees, to some extent even co-performers. As they work with these images, the artists may break away from the photos – but never the motif. The undertow of the duplication vortex lines up the motifs, hundreds of Polaroids evening out images which are already the same, yet somehow different. The stamp containing the heart logo is an even faster multiplier and also a kind of seal of authenticity. Its various modifications aid organization and archiving. It’s striking (and not for the first time) how sovereignly EVA & ADELE control the flood of images that they themselves have inspired. They turn out to be real organizational talents, their tirelessness nurtured by an obsessive desire to acquire their own extraterritorial appearance. Their global perspectives are sorted by the precisely defined characteristics of their series. The myth that EVA & ADELE are self-taught is quickly refuted by casually glancing at their work itself, even if they choose not to divulge where they learned their craft. EVA & ADELE act with carefully considered strategies. “We take the experience gathered in public with us into the studio,” they explained to Nina Kirsch. “The studio is a kind of laboratory, a place of analysis, dissection and reassembly.”5 In a highly professional manner revealing a mastery of images, they distil outline drawings from both the materials they have ordered and sundry jetsam. They then simplify or colour them, intentionally groping their way into self-irony. At this point there’s a high risk of their being dismissed as caricatures, and this provides further confusion. From EVA & ADELE’s angle, it’s like playing with fire. But when it comes down to it, everything they do is deadly serious in its own way!

‘Performative Installation 208’ created in 2008 for the Lentos Museum of Modern Art in Linz was made up of 208 fairly small mixed-media works over a length of about 12 metres. It contains equal shares of consumption-obsessed seductive art, the overtaxing of perception, and overwhelming abundance. Anything is possible in the flow of images of this large collage, and sometimes a drawing from the distant past sneaks in. But mixed media is all the range, EVA & ADELE are firing on all cylinders, and sometimes disastrous miniatures make strange insinuations in the confusing horror vacui of ‘Performative Installation 208’.6 Ultimately, the overpowering flood of images shields us from the details. However, the large oil paintings in ‘Transformer – Performer’ are puzzling, colour-drenched transitions that can’t be ignored. The obsessively inseparable EVA & ADELE are torn apart again and again, nightmares and dark erotic fantasies are hinted at in expressive gestures, while all sorts of skulls bare their teeth. Are there really any negative sides in this eternally smiling detachment? Perhaps the selfimposed fate of permanent performance, to which attention is drawn by time-honoured vanitas symbols. Seen in these terms, the elaborate ‘Kostümpläne’ (Costume Plans) which EVA & ADELE first displayed in detail at MOCAK in 2012 also tell of an actionistic prison, for the concept leaves no room for escape. They take this opportunity to quote Friedrich Hölderlin: “Learning life in art and art in life.”7 ‘FUTURING’, the term which EVA & ADELE coined for their possible-impossible existence, could also be a technical term for a dance on a volcano, for balancing on the precipice. This discovery doesn’t mean a paradigm shift; it simply results on closer inspection. There has never been an actionistic permanent cheerfulness here. The comedy has one foot in tragedy. There are parallel worlds to the beautiful exterior which are an indispensable part of the whole and which have been there since the beginning.

When EVA & ADELE draw, they walk only too clearly on the precipice. This seems to be inevitable owing to the very nature of the matter. Drawing is on the one hand a disposable medium of everyday life, while on the other it’s used for designing and planning, giving it a utopian, visionary purpose. The boundaries between the edges and centres of this art form are blurred. Perhaps this is why drawings are a kind of seismographic sensory organ in the documentation machinery of the tireless.

Similar to ‘Performative Installation 208’, the artists at any rate also talk of ‘performative drawing’.8 The infinite action that gives birth to all images is formulated on the shortest route.

From this immediacy, a conceptual feature can simultaneously be filtered out of the EVA & ADELE system (sorry). Action or performance means not so much everyday theatre (that too, of course), but above all movement, and this starts when getting dressed. The energetic aspect of movement feeds production in an almost Beuysian sense before cooling down in a pictorial moment, a pose, a photograph or drawing, as it were. The metaphorical title of the exhibition can be interpreted in this sense: ‘Obsidian’, a “naturally occurring volcanic glass formed as an extrusive igneous rock.”9 But beforehand EVA & ADELE stroll around (in high heels) in a circle; only curious questions, a photo or small talk cause them to briefly stop. This movement increases their radius of action. They don’t just travel to glamorous exhibition openings or their own shows, they travel in order to be on the move – to New York, to Venice as well as to Usedom. And they always go for their daily walks or travel in their own motorhome from one place to another. Paolo Bianchi speaks in this context of the “Grand tour, or the aesthetics of being on the road.” 10 EVA & ADELE themselves refer to their “walking programme”, which simply takes the form of “walking, walking, walking”.11 The movement, the performance itself now appears to be a spiritual exercise. All of a sudden, the clean-shaven heads look like quotations from the Far East: Buddha goes pop.

Like a natural reaction, the spell of this tireless motion is followed by drawing. The mobile home becomes EVA & ADELE’s studio when they’re travelling. Drawing has always been an essential part of any travelogue. Despite viewers being prepared by looking at the large collages, despite the depths of their multifarious oil paintings, the drawings’ previously overlooked immediacy and expressiveness are stunning. The ‘Roadmovie’, by which they mean the 12 metres at the Lentos Museum of Modern Art,12 was taken in single-frame mode, even though series of images can be seen in it. There’s a whole raft of details in which EVA & ADELE give themselves away, but the permanent smiling disappears in the somnambulistic notations for the time being on the dark side of the moon. Even in their colour works, a furore prevails, which is suitably released with the related tools and simultaneously realized in the traditional limits of the medium. However, it is the works executed in graphite which appear the most radical. It’s amazing how hard a soft pencil (HB) can be. The virtues of the genre are plainly revealed: broad and light strokes, contrasting gestures, extreme materializations and individual lines all enter into dialogue on the white stage. The subject sometimes takes second place while the iconographic topos of EVA & ADELE withdraws from the centre of attention surprisingly often. In some drawings in ‘Tides’ (2012), the logo of their togetherness painted in delicate watercolours and infinitely varied is overgrown with garlands like crowns of thorns. The drawing moves on a pre-structured basis, the linear waves rising up to the new, gluttonous horizon. These drawings are like imaginary cries for help. ‘‘Kaktusblüte’ (Cactus Blossom)’ proliferate everywhere, in Berlin (2011) and on the Isle of Rhé (2009), but most dangerously of all places in 2010 on Usedom. Homes and lake districts emerge alongside abstract, midnight and surreal images.

Gossamer dreams are captured by violent condensation. What comes from Eva, what from Adele? Although their works appear as a unified whole, incorrigible viewers occasionally look for traces of this double life, seeking evidence of a functional togetherness in contrasting structures and moments of dialogue. But no information is forthcoming – they both just smile knowingly. One reliable constant is the signature; whatever happens, it always says ‘EVA & ADELE’. And one distinctive feature is the use of solid, even precious material, such as exquisite paper. Sometimes a trace of nail varnish can be seen next to the actual drawing. After all, their very special work clothes are their indispensable ceremonial regalia. Representation, drawing, movement = performance.

EVA & ADELE don’t always operate on the sheltered terrain of art. They encounter resistance – and they both grit their teeth. A photo shoot in Kreuzberg, confrontation with the down-to-earth proletariat can assume dangerous proportions, sometimes stones are thrown, sometimes their mobile nest – the pink Peugeot Boxer – is surrounded or even shaken by detractors.13 But confrontation, whomever it happens to be with, not just those who mean well, is a principle of work, the drive belt of image-gathering. The seismographs respond accordingly – and sharpened pencils lie ready in every corner of the studio. The confrontation between art and the world formats its language in an almost Romantic sense, and EVA & ADELE’s entire oeuvre needs something of everyday life in order to sweat out its somewhat different picture connections. The series ‘TSG 1’ (2009) fronts a special kind of story. It’s about the ‘Law on the amendment of the first name and the determination of gender in special cases’, ‘TSG’ being the German abbreviation of Gender Recognition Act. In liberal Germany, sex changes are possible even without the operation. Applicants have to submit two psychiatric reports for approval by a judge before the desired result can be entered in the register of births. Eva passed this gruelling procedure in a sensationally short time in 2009. And in the evenings after the therapy sessions, it was drawing time! Familiar identities are temporarily ripped open by the compulsory bureaucratic and analytical process to which applicants are subjected. Double faces talk, four pairs of eyes seek a face, a mask is proffered, male overwrites female and vice versa. The self-portrait staggers as an intimation through the format and screws itself up in a manner reminiscent of Picasso’s ‘Guernica’. Who is Eva? Where are EVA & ADELE? The children of the future are almost unrecognizable. Direct confrontation with the ordeal forces the driving obsession to a new level, its recording in the form of a drawing partially taking on a life of its own. Although the beautiful exterior is far away, the existential introspection ultimately feeds the sizeable remainder.

Sometimes, when the drawings are too far removed from the common sense of perpetual action, they are recaptured by the presentation. Like the series ‘Tides’, ‘Zeitmaschine’ (Time Machine) (2012) operates with merciless exaggerations of luminous variations of the heart-and-head logo. But this time, the deconstructions are elevated by found frames, the splendour of the newly gilded frames restraining the emotional fire (and not just in this series). The frames have been chosen with care – neo-baroque gems for ‘Zeitmaschine’ (Time Machine), smooth, more functional affairs made out of oxidized silver for ‘Spiegelgespiegelt’ (Mirrormirrored) (2011) with its partly abstract, partly erotic mutants. The cries for help reach the onlooker almost as arias. These outliers wouldn’t be possible without being located in the actionistic body of the ubiquitous ‘FUTURING’. What’s more, EVA & ADELE are experienced exhibition organizers, to a certain extent presentation geniuses – in fact this is something that they do day and night. EVA & ADELE collect not only beautiful, nostalgic frames but also batiste handkerchiefs. As precious as the superb paper that they otherwise use, they form a stage for a hybrid of painting and drawing. The ambiguous series title ‘Wanted’ (2012) is embroidered (as is the signature), adhering to the cloth like a brand. Intensely coloured faces shine out, art history casts its shadow in the form of Expressionism and New Objectivity reverberating on these phantom images, which are an innovative part of the concept of permanent performance. The beautifully crocheted frames and ornamentation are an element of a pre-structured base. EVA & ADELE produce images incessantly, including sometimes images like these, in parallel formations. And they remain tangible, even when the door has shut.

1 Illustration in: EVA & ADELE. Catalogue, MOCAK. Museum of Contemporary Art, Kraków, 2012, pp. 104ff.
2 Illustration in: Rosa Rot. Catalogue, Museum der Moderne, Salzburg; Lentos Kunstmuseum, Linz, 2008, pp. 70ff.
3 Julia Schmitz: Wo wir sind, ist Museum. www.independantcollectors.com, published on 18 September 2012.
4 EVA & ADELE in an addendum to the text dated 26 November 2012.
5 Zeitmaschine. Interview mit Nina Kirsch. In: Rosa Rot. Catalogue, Museum der Moderne, Salzburg; Lentos Kunstmuseum, Linz, 2008, p. 94.
6 See Note 5.
7 See Note 4.
8 Email from EVA & ADELE to the author dated 2 October 2012.
9 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obsidian, retrieved on 22 January 2013.
10 Paolo Bianchi: Kunst als Erfindung des Lebens. In: CUM. Catalogue, Sprengel Museum, Hanover, 1997, p. 23.
11 EVA & ADELE during a visit to their studio in Berlin on 26 September 2012.
12 See Note 5.
13 On various Aspects of Being a Living Work of Art. Delfina Piekarska im Gespräch mit EVA & ADELE. In: EVA & ADELE. Catalogue, MOCAK. Museum of contemporary art, Kraków, 2012, p. 92.