EVA & ADELE: The First Exhibition

Ulrich Krempel

From the perspective of today, it actually seems incredible how long everything took: like other people in the art scene who travel to big exhibitions and the important art fairs, I had known EVA & ADELE by sight for years, from documenta, Basel and other places. And for some time, we always walked past each other. But in the Ruhr region, where I come from, people barely recognise each other after two encounters and then simply nod to each other, one might also ask: ‘How are you doing?’; the standard reply is: “And you?’ And then, perhaps at the next meeting, you might already begin to talk in another way, perhaps asking where the person is from and where he or she is going. EVA & ADELE, friendly, as they had always been, invited me with their smiles and their attentiveness, their recognition, to approach them and to say and ask more than only the usual.… And so it somehow then began.

Adele recalls it better than I do: it was in the VIP area of the fair in Basel that we first spoke to one another. It must have been in the mid-1990s. I was accustomed to seeing the two of them in ever-changing, glamorous appearances, with shaved heads in alternating costumes, always with different elegant footwear, with or without wings and always with their insistent, irresistible smiles, as a double image and simulated pair of twins. In their conversation was the message: ‘We are coming out of the future. Futuring!’ What quickly became clear were the boundaries that the two cross again and again, legitimately or not, in their artistic time travel: that of the accustomed, the predefined, of the expected; the boundaries between the sexes. What they thought and presented, they lived, with unfailing energy, in the midst of this whirl of gallery owners, collectors, curators – interested only in hype and turnover.

Such honesty and such a risky stance in the middle of wolf territory! The communicative approach to everything there around them. Their appearance flouts the conventions of cultured bourgeois art events, and it was specifically for this reason that EVA & ADELE were making an appearance here, in the serene and celebratory ambience of museum, art association and art gallery, at fairs, tours and exhibition openings. This was a radical artistic stance, more radical than all the academic agitations at the stalls of the art dealers. Thus, a performance? A theatre of agitation? Or the celestial resolution of their drastically shaved skinhead skulls in a non-violent, perfectly styled, artificial paraphrase? A combination of Marilyn Monroe and Cyborg, ballerinas and robocops, art creatures and real-time freaks?

When we produced CUM, the first exhibition of the two in Hanover in 1997, I wrote in the catalogue: ‘EVA & ADELE are not a theatrical turn. They have nothing to do with drag queens who after the show, take off their makeup and their wigs and once they’re home put their slippers on and their feet up. EVA & ADELE are permanent. They really exist. They are an art product, part and parcel of our daily lives in and around the world of art. All their appearances in public are undertaken together, as EVA & ADELE. This exhibition, too, testifies to their togetherness, to the fact they are inseparable in space and time, to the fact that there is no life other than that of EVA & ADELE. EVA & ADELE is an art concept which transcends all existing or accepted notions of art. There is no end in sight, no let up, no relaxing après théâtre, no private life, no likelihood of returning to the peace and quiet of normal bourgeois existence once the performance is over.’1

And that had happened before: at some point during our conversation in Basel, I asked a simple question. ‘And what else do you do? Is there any other artistic production?’ The two did not reveal anything away, but did promise a visit to Hanover in their camper. There, they would then present their set of works for CUM.

In the end, what lay on the tables of the museum were large-format drawings, executed in ferro-gallic ink on handmade paper; drawings based on photographs that showed EVA & ADELE with people who had taken pictures during specific encounters and who, afterwards – at the request of the artists –had sent the pictures to them. A large compendium of situations of being together lay there before us, the recorded results of EVA & ADELE’s communication with other people. ‘CUM’ – Latin for ‘with’ – stood as the title for the collective process, of the togetherness of the encounters. Stamped and noted on every drawing were references to the authors of the photographs, to the place where the photographs, the basis for the drawings, had been taken and from where they had been sent. A flood of images of encounters with smiling people posing together for a portrait. Smiling. Together.

The first exhibition consisted of those photographs put together. A flood of images on the walls. The museum was immersed in pink clouds; in addition to the hard black-and-white drawings, the artists also presented sculptures and, above all, themselves; the people of Hanover were suddenly confronted with two such prominent, shrill twins, and many a surprise encounter, as well as many tougher confrontations, had already taken place on the short journey from the hotel to the museum.

But EVA & ADELE are hard campaigners; they know how to present themselves, and frequently, they are capable of taking the edge off the aggression with which they are confronted and simply turn it back. The good citizens of our city made peace with the two of them, integrating them in our little big city, which Kurt Schwitters had already described as a particularly well-behaved and unflustered city. They quickly wrung from the normal people that respect which emerges when one encounters an earnest and serious matter. Thus, unease turned into understanding, rejection into proximity, distance into friendliness and friendship; won by means of the unceasing friendliness and interest in those they encounter, typical of the messages which EVA & ADELE convey to others. They also stood as a matter of course in front of our son’s kindergarten group and spoke to the young children about their lives and their goals. The children asked questions; the first: ‘Are you a couple?’ Then came a big YESSSS from EVA & ADELE’s lips, in unison; the little ones clapped and the two art angels laughed. Thus was an understanding achieved between the beings to whom the future jointly belongs.

They both are creating a reality that really does matter to them – first and foremost, living OVER THE BOUNDARIES OF GENDER – living as themselves. Mornings, evenings, afternoons. Always on duty, always themselves. The play with boundaries, the play with the boundaries of gender as well, was what confused but simultaneously fascinated many an anxious and timid individual. The male part of Eva’s appearance, the female part of Adele’s, both sometimes seemed so apparent; but the very next moment, as if in the game of role reversal , the reassessment and levelling of gender roles took place. The play of art then suddenly turned into a genuine message in real life when EVA & ADELE also imparted their statements in everyday life, outside the museum and gallery. Since they are not artists who prepare themselves for their appearances in the dressing room or who remove their makeup and change clothes after the performance, they step into our everyday life. This is where their relevance, their rebellious and educational potential lies.

EVA & ADELE continue today to be a direct response to a misunderstanding that we constantly experience in the art world. We have become accustomed to art as a staged event, which happens on a symbolic level. Art does not take place in real life but, rather, real life has placed itself next to art and given it free space for development. The idea that art can permeate life, that it could take us over completely and be as present for us at night as during the day, indeed, that the whole of life could be art – this idea seems to have become lost to art today to a great extent.

EVA & ADELE have broken out of this dilemma. Since they come from the future, they can dream and act differently. We have seen them in Berlin, London, Basel and Paris. Whilst appreciative of their cheerfulness, we made light of them, we presumed them to be some strange urban art beings and pushed them to the periphery of our perception. But EVA & ADELE live art, they have given it back to us as a social process; we who experience them in our museums now grasp how far-reaching their concept is, the concept which has from the very beginning been: WHEREVER WE ARE IS MUSEUM.


1 U. Krempel: ‘What’s the Name of the Film You’re in?’ in Eva & Adele: CUM, ex. cat. Sprengel Museum, Hanover, Ostfildern, 1997, p. 15.