Robert Fleck

EVA & ADELE are a significant event of the art of the nineties. Whilst this assertion may seem altogether affirmative, it is fact justified merely by the degree of presence which these two artists - as a single-work person - have managed to achieve in the art scene of our present decade. Only very few artists have made their presence felt to the same extent during the same period.
Particular reference to the nineties is inevitable when the conversation turns to the single-work person EVA & ADELE, for their debut in the art scene as "EVA & ADELE" took place at the opening of the exhibition "Metropolis" at the MartinGropius-Bau, Berlin, in May 1991. Although they had appeared in public before, their appearance as "newlyweds" at 'Metropolis' represented a transition to their presence at art events as we know it today.(1) "Metropolis" was the first large international exhibition to take place after the collapse of the art market in the wake of the Gulf War. This situation made room at the beginning of the nineties for a severe, neo-conceptual aesthetic of a bodyart-oriented and/or anti-institutional kind which, in a spectacular turn of direction, broke with the conventional and uninspired art of the eighties. EVA & ADELE were involved in these artistic developments of the nineties in manifold ways. Indeed, they are a significant event of the nineties, even though this may sound linguistically illogical, for EVA & ADELE are physical beings and cannot, as such, be an event. But in their case, art and life, work, public appearance and person are interwoven to such an extent that this assertion is, as regards its content, perfectly correct.
The art scene took notice of EVA & ADELE only very slowly and hesitantly, and only in part. In the beginning, they were regarded as alternative artists. Only recently has their work, that is to say, their conception, development and presentation of the single-work person "EVA & ADELE"—been seriously discussed as performance art. Still widely unknown, however, is the complex combination of theoretical reflection, public appearance in the art context and normal life which is central to the concept of EVA & ADELE. And it is accompanied by the development of a new kind of artistic economy and a new kind of painting. It is precisely through this diversity and its deliberately universal validity, however, that EVA & ADELE may serve as an example of the artistic problems of recent years.
A decisive aspect of Eva's and ADELE's involvement is the fact that they invariably make their appearances at interfaces of the most diverse kinds. The most important interface is that which exists between alternative art and the Art Establishment. Ever since "Metropolis", EVA & ADELE have been present at the openings of large exhibitions, art fairs, the documentas and the Biennales—not unannounced, but certainly uninvited. In other words, they avail themselves of the exhibition as a medium, but without having been invited to take part as artists. It was for this reason that they were initially confused with all the many alternative artists who usually show their works or demonstrate their objections in front of the gates to the exhibition grounds. Eva's and ADELE's request for tickets for the opening of "documenta IX" in 1992 received the following curt reply from the press spokeswoman: "Tickets are available at the box-office." Seven days before the press conference and official opening, EVA & ADELE had arrived at the Kassel caravan and camping site and had begun to make their way each day through the documenta grounds. In consequence of a news report from the Deutsche Presseagentur, dozens of newspapers presented EVA & ADELE as "eccentric birds of paradise" who had come to Kassel specially for documenta. But even at this 1992 edition of documenta, it was obvious that EVA & ADELE were serious artists whose public appearance represented an ambitious work of art existing somewhere on the boundary between art and life, and coming somewhere between the art scene and the media scene. The magazine 'Stern' referred to the two artists as "documenta stars", although officially they had not taken part in docamenta at all.
Usually there is no possible way of crossing over from the alternative art scene to the established one. The alternative art scenes before the gates of documenta in Kassel and the Biennale in Venice are ghettos from which good artists rarely ever emerge. EVA & ADELE, on the other hand, were only thought to belong to the alternative scene. Unlike the artists at the gates, EVA & ADELE moved about inside the exhibition. Moreover, their appearances in public take a precisely defined form. They are both professional artists with exhibition experience and the necessary theoretical background, using the alternative art form only as a means of securing a special place in the established art scene. In personal conversations with EVA & ADELE one soon notices how very much this artist duo is based—as a work of art—on a deep understanding of, and a reflection upon, the developments that have taken place in art since the demise of modernism, and with particular reference to the socio-political position of the artist and the role of the museum. In other words, EVA & ADELE are anything but naive. Admittedly, they never declaim their theoretical notions during their public appearances, and rarely do they deliver a commentary about themselves. The work is silent, and stands as a visual statement for itself. But the work of EVA & ADELE is highly reflexive, and so any aesthetic borrowings from alternative art forms seem, in this context, to be part and parcel of their strategy. This interface between alternative and established art also renders irrelevant any comparisons—these are drawn from to time—with older performance artists. Whilst EVA & ADELE move about in the art exhibitions in a seemingly natural way, like all the other exhibition visitors, their essentially hermaphroditic character and their outlandish dress make them clearly recognizable as a 'public' work of art. Moreover, the routes they take through the exhibitions and the choreography of their appearances are fixed beforehand, like every precisely thought-through performance. They arrived at the Venice Biennale of 1993, for example, in pink, winged costumes, carrying a globe and appearing at each of the national pavilions according to a precise, rhythmical schedule, while a photo of the action in postcard form was handed out to the exhibition visitors as souvenirs.(2) Such reminiscences of the aesthetics of alternative art and the deliberate use of bad taste cannot fail to cause friction at any of the big exhibitions on the Art Establishment's calendar. The social events which these actions generate at such exhibitions are central to the concept of EVA & ADELE.
The second interface at which EVA & ADELE appear is the one between the exhibition and the media. In recent years, EVA & ADELE have gained increasing respect in the art world. This has to do with their enormous endurance. At first, their appearances were considered to be just a gag, something that couid not possibly be here to stay. From the middle of the nineties onwards, the constancy and consistency of their public appearances—at the openings of large and important exhibitions, art festivals, etc.—brought about a complete change of mood and attitude. People admired their perseverance and wondered how they couid possibly finance all the enormous amount of travelling they must do. After all, they were obviously neither jet setters nor party-goers. Moreover, ever since the bodyart revivel of the early nineties, EVA & ADELE have been the protagonists of that newly defined body concept which has a not insignificant part to play in contemporary art.Still more important, however, is the diverse publicity which the single-work person is given by the media. EVA & ADELE readily allow themselves to be photographed by passers-by and other exhibition visitors. Their fantastical get-up and their meanwhile acquired fame have made them the most photographed people of the art world. However, it was not until they had finally achieved public acceptance that the mass media appeared on the scene. Today, both the electronic media and the print media are fond of using Eva's and ADELE's image as an emblem of contemporary art. Whilst they used to be examples of outsiders, today they are the "visual peg" for reports on art fairs and festivals.(3) Through their popularity and the coverage given to them by the media, EVA & ADELE have become an attraction which, outside the art world, is better known to the public than many a famous artist. The central role which the media play in their work was foreseen by EVA & ADELE from the very outset. The publicity side of their activities has now shifted from the galleries and museums—the usual forums of art—to the media. Although they make their public appearances without comment, EVA & ADELE always attract hordes of eager photographers— amateurs and professionals alike. The media's art game here thematizes itself, as it were. And the questions of copyright over media photos and reportages now redefine the artist's potential earning power.
The third interface in Eva's and ADELE's work is the one between art and social reality. Only very few people in the art world are aware that these two artists make their appearance not only at art events, such as exhibition openings and art fairs, but also in everyday contexts. Naturally, there is an enormous difference, in terms of purpose and reaction, between visiting an art exhibition and going to the corner shop for a loaf of bread. It is precisely this largely unknown aspect of EVA & ADELE, however, which justifies their work perhaps more than anything else. In the normal everyday world, Eva's and ADELE's status as a public work of art is not entirely unknown, not only because many passers-by have already seen photos of them in the newspapers or reports about them on television, but also because most of the neighbourhood is talking about them. All the same, their status as artists is here reduced to a dimension which readily fits into the pattern of normal everyday life. Shouts from passers-by—such as "At least they've made something of their lives!"—testify to the affection which people outside the art context show towards EVA & ADELE. In areas of social conflict, such as the satellite towns of former East Germany, reactions can be quite the reverse, not to say violent, for it is there that an aversion to all that is different—ethnically, sexually and aesthetically—prevails, an aversion which can express itself with untoward immediacy, and far removed from any notion or understanding of art. Their travels in their camper van often take them into such areas.(4) Eva's and ADELE's gesture in this context is not meant to be absolutely radical. They have no wish to change the whole of life into something perfectly styled all the way through. What they have succeeded in doing, on the other hand, is to bridge the gap between the art world and the social sphere. EVA & ADELE are one of the very few points of contact which actually exist between these two entities. For many people, for example, EVA & ADELE are symbols which stand for the quintessential artist. For the art world, on the other hand, EVA & ADELE come from a not exactly definable sphere of society located somewhere on the border between the art world and the social environment. In analogy to the neo-conceptual art of the nineties, one might here pick up, and enlarge upon, a thought which Boris Groys once expressed about Picasso and Warhol: whilst Warhol utilized popular, non-artistic images to create high art, Picasso's unequalled popularity could be explained by the fact that he had taken high art, and with it the history of art, into the non-artistic sphere and had treated it in the same way as popular art. Thus one might say, by the same token, that politically correct contemporary art thematizes social matters from its high art standpoint, a standpoint to which it has adapted itself perfectly, whilst EVA & ADELE reflect upon high art from the context of social reality within which they operate.
EVA & ADELE deliberately deny the existence of a biography which goes back further than 1991, the year in which they made their debut as "EVA & ADELE" at the exhibition "Metropolis". Similarly, they make no mention of any influences on their work, for they insist on its freedom from all art-historical constructs and from the short-lived commercialism of the art market. But artists do have a tendency to reinterpret their predecessors and the art of previous epochs. In Eva's and ADELE's case it is Joseph Beuys. Several of Beuys's approaches find their logical extension in Eva's and ADELE's work. Beuys's famous felt hat had a similar function in public as Eva's and ADELE's fantastic outfits. Today, EVA & ADELE are almost as well known to a broader section of the media-consuming public as Beuys was, and almost as legendary, too. He, too, had just as much an effect on the ordinary man in the street as on any insider of the art world. And it was also Joseph Beuys who, like EVA & ADELE, was originally classed as an alternative artist, and, for this reason, was accepted relatively late by the Art Establishment. Certainly, EVA & ADELE are pursuing a different approach, an approach which is free from virtually every ideology, and one which comes closer to the post-Utopian age of the nineties. But even here there is a parallel with Beuys: for many people all over the world, EVA & ADELE embody the idea of the artist who believes in art and is not afraid of making his work his life.

1 It is in this connection that the wording of their letter to Christos M. Joachimides dated 3rd December 1990 is particularly interesting: "For your planned exhibition project "METROPOLIS" in the MARTIN-GROPIUS-BAU it is our idea and wish to represent a "picture" which, thematically, is also central to our materialized work".
2 Meanwhile EVA & ADELE have made their appearance in the art world in three different winged costumes.
3 "And of course with EVA & ADELE. Opening of 'Art Cologne's excellent mood all round."— this was the title of the report on the opening of the Cologne art feir which appeared in the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger on 11.11.1993. Such examples are legion, and in many countries. Cf. Süddeutsche Zeitung, 18.6.1997, p. 13, "Venice Biennale": "EVA & ADELE with Helmut Federle in the Swiss pavilion.«
4 Such conflicting approaches to art can even be encountered in the very strongholds of culture. On the 24th March 1996, employees of the (private) secarity services at the Louvre refused admission to EVA & ADELE on the grounds that "persons of that kind had no business being in the greatest museum in the world". Section 20 of the "Reglement interne" of the Louvre prescribes "une attitude correcte" for its visitors. Several other visitors sided with EVA & ADELE. The security personnel threatened to call the police. It was not the first time that such incidents had developed into a fight. Typically, the custodians of the Louvre immediately recognized EVA & ADELE the next day—and also as artists. Being artists affords them only minimum protection in their daily lives. And EVA & ADELE must summon up a great deal of courage and authority in those social environments where people have no notion or under standing of art.