Wherever we are is museum
"Wherever we are is museum" - this is one of EVA & ADELE's few, though often repeated statements. Its formulation is altogether unusual, and we cannot quite come to terms with the somewhat Germanic construction and the missing indefinite article. Correctly, it should read: "Wherever we are is a museum", or, better still, "A museum is wherever we are". What is even more irritating, however, is this artists duo«s seemingly arrogant claim to museum status. But both the grammatical aberration and the assertion of the statement are central to what EVA & ADELE have now been propagating and practising for many years. Their notion of a 'museum' has to do neither with a building nor with an institution, but is rather to be understood in the original Greek sense of "mouseion". In Greek antiquity, the word "mouseion" referred to the sacred temples and groves dedicated to the Muses, the goddesses of arts. As fate would have it, and as the ancient myths recount, the Muses inspired the arts of music and poetry, indeed they were several in number, whilst the visual arts remained unprotected, coming away completely empty-handed, as it were. Not even among the liberal arts as a whole - Grammar, Rhetoric, Dialectics, Arithmetic, Geometry, Music and Astronomy - was there a place for the visual arts. And so fate has finally decreed - and better late than never - that the Muses EVA & ADELE should make up for this shameful oversight by lending the visual arts a helping hand with their claim to recognition as a faculty of the liberal arts in their own right. And since there is a general lack of sacred temples and groves, EVA & ADELE focus their 'museum' on public places, where they attract the attention of, and meet with, the members of public; indeed, it is this personal confrontation and exchange which is the very essence of their "museum".
It was assumed, for quite a long time that these eventful meetings were confined solely to the art scene. There was not a single important event on the art calendar at which EVA & ADELE did not make their appearance, whether Documenta in Kassel or the Biennale in Venice, whether art fairs in all parts of Europe or the Berlin exhibition 'Metropolis', the last-mentioned event being - astonishingly, in retrospect - the one which, in 1991, sparked the whole thing off, that is to say, inspired the basic artistic concept of EVA & ADELE. And wherever these two strange, extravagantly dressed baldheads appeared, they would inevitably steal the show, even where the gathering of art disciples was at its most sophisticated and exclusive. Meanwhile, however, it has become obvious that these meetings can take place with all kinds of people and in every conceivable situation, on a remote camping site in the Peloponnese or in a plane to New York, in the Berlin grocer's shop where EVA & ADELE do their shopping, or in the underground on their way to their next meeting. ÑWherever we are" - that means anywhere: in the street, in a bar, in a public lavatory and, of course, in any of the Meccas of the art world. No matter where we are, we might readily chance upon EVA & ADELE, though this meeting, or much rather its consummation, will largely depend on whether we are willing to take them up on their offer. For in the final analysis it is not so much the geographical location as the situation and its d'Èroulement which constitute the essence of their 'museum'. What is most important about the process is that we do not merely register the presence of EVA & ADELE - as we do in the case of the hundreds of people that cross our path every day - but rather become aware of them. In other words, they must attract our attention. It is a moment of attraction which both presupposes our alertness and sympathetic curiosity and, by the same token, sets an interactive process in motion.
No wonder EVA & ADELE attract attention, no matter where or when they make their appearance. In their identical, provocatively skin-tight, self-designed, garishly coloured outfits, their white, silver or pink short skirts, their bodices tightly fitted at the waist, their ladies stockings and high-heeled shoes, EVA & ADELE are so conspicious that it is impossible to overlook them. But it is precisely their provocative appearance which is an essential part of their strategy, for it sets a communicative process in motion of its own accord. Identical but for their size, they skip towards us with that characteristically inviting smile on their faces, knowing full well that any minute now they are going to be the target of photographing strollers or strolling photographers. They willingly pose for us, and let us have our picture taken with them, and even allow themselves to be drawn into conversation. And, suddenly, they clap on the handcuffs for out of one of their tiny handbags comes a postcard, one side of which bears their double photo, the other side the message: "You just made a photo of EVA & ADELE Global Art Work: CUM. Please send your photo to E and A...P.O.BOX...Berlin." The ice is broken, the romance begins. The photographers join their models, confusing the roles of subject and object - "The spectator becomes the player"1. What at the moment of their meeting was entirely free from obligation will soon have its consequences. Correspondence will link hithero separate and distant places together; time will expand and assume a completely different quality; the activities of EVA & ADELE as a whole will take on an increasingly global dimension. And the time and place of this interaction characterize, as the scene of their 'museum', as it were, the nomadic life of EVA & ADELE. It is not by chance that EVA & ADELE do most of their travelling in their camper van. There are two sides to their life: the nomadic side - the side which makes Global Art possible - and Berlin, the fixed centre, the control centre, of their world-wide operations. Berlin is the 'headquarters of this artist duo, whilst their actual home is their `museum`, and this is - Berlin included - global, for it comprises a network which they have spun all around the world, a network which is constantly expanding.
This network is controlled from Berlin. Berlin is the focal point of their activities, for behind their amusing, seemingly improvised theatrics is a more or less rigid system of artistic practices. Such a system eventually became necessary because, on the one hand, EVA & ADELE somehow had to proceed beyond the initial stage of their - as yet - undefined method of self portrayal, and, on the other, it placed them in a clearer position in both the art-historical context and in the art scene. Their strategy thus related to both form and content, that is to say, to the aspect of their meetings with the public on the one hand, and to the more intellectual aspect of their work on the other, both aspects contributing to the meaning of 'museum'. The relationship between improvisation and institutionalization, between familiarity and aloofness, is subjected to constant reassessment, for only in this way can they be sure of preserving the mysterious aura that surrounds them.
An essential part of their strategy is to redefine the notion of the `museum`. Although Berlin has already been mentioned in this context, it is not a public place, but rather a kind of secret headquarters where all information converges, a brain in which happenings and ideas are collected and evaluated. The `museum` in Berlin is the archive. This is where the hundreds of photos, and the correspondence they trigger, are carefully sorted and filsed. Berlin is also their production facility, for EVA & ADELE have meanwhile developed several different forms of artistic articulation:
The day begins with a polaroid which EVA & ADELE take of themselves in exactly the same pose and in exactly the same position every day. The logo is a pink heart shaped from two heads. These self-portraits serve as a kind of pictorial diary and are complemented by close-ups of EVA & ADELE, likewise taken with a self-timer, in varying poses. These photographs of themselves, which they have collected for many years, are used by EVA & ADELE as the basis for the pastel paintings - both of them are experienced painters - which they produce at varying intervals.
From the photos which they receive, EVA & ADELE produce analytical, linear drawings; the so-called CUM-blow-ups are enlargements of these drawings on handmade watercolour paper and canvas which the artists then finish in strongly contrasting colours.
These paintings on both canvas and paper - the video loops also form part of the Mediaplastic strategy - are EVA's and ADELE's publications. The idea behind 'Mediaplastic'is the "conversation, visualization and conveying of both the moment of publication and of live communication"2
The works archived at EVA's and ADELE's Berlin headquarters thus form the collection of their `museum`. However, the important tasks which museums of the traditional kind have to fulfil, namely the exhibition and communication of art, do not fall on this private part of the 'museum', but are allocated to all those other places which are accessible to members of the public. Ever since their first exhibition at the Sprengel Museum Hanover 1997, a great many art museums and public art galleries - and the private galleries will soon be following suit - have been offering to exhibit their work. And there's the rub: EVA & ADELE are now being afforded access to precisely those official institutions which they actually wish to bypass. But viewed realistically, this opportunity of exhibiting and selling their works could provide EVA & ADELE with the necessary basis of their livelihood. And viewed on a nonmaterial level, the material works of EVA & ADELE represent a kind of giving back, and the showing of them could lead to a discourse on a broader level. In other words, EVA's and ADELE's 'museum' is still a public place in essence. As a social system, art develops and preserves itself as a continuous means of communication about art. The works of art furnish a topic of conversation."3 It is within the compass of such a discourse that a reinterpretation of the notion of the 'museum'could be one of the themes discussed.
Thus EVA's and ADELE's search for a different kind of museum is not at all that abstruse, but rather operates in that same chain of reciprocating circumstances first recognized by Marcel Duchamp. His brilliant move of transporting everyday objects into the museum and declaring them works of art had brought those two unstable, mutually hostile spheres of life and art into an interactive relationship with each other, though admittedly Duchamp acted out of confidence in the uniqueness of his own stroke of artistic genius and on the understanding that the process was unidirectional and, moreover, would not shake the foundation of the museum as an isolated institution.
It is precisely the logical continuation of Duchamp's ideas which Joseph Beuys insists on when he says: "If it is possible for me to do it and for a normal, anonymous industrial product to be a work of art in an art environment, it follows that the real artist is the one who actually made the industrial products. And since it was made not by just one person, but by many, the conclusion to be drawn is quite obvious: not only painters, sculptors, pianists, dancers and singers are artists, but everybody is an artist! (...) And what now ought to undergo innovative change and transformation in the museums and in the business of culture as a whole are not just the works of art but the notion of art itself."4 "However, the criticized notion of the museum as an isolated institution (...) is re-EVAluated by Beuys within his 'extended notion of art', for all places are important to Beuys where the notion of art can be extended, where cultural evolution takes place, and the neutral museum building can indeed be a positive and active place in this sense."5 Beuys envisages the museum of the future as a kind of university, "because in a university there is an interdisciplinary relationship between all the fields of activity of human beings and because this interdisciplinary relationship will then be capable of developing a new notion of art."6
EVA & ADELE would definitely be in agreement with Beuys' demands, and especially with his 'extended notion of art'and his rejection of the isolated institution of the museum in favour of creatively communicative meeting places which are possible everywhere. Their democratic approach, that is to say, their negation of all hierarchical differentiation between artists and members of the public is virtually identical. Much more sceptical than Duchamp and Beuys as regards the situation and function of the museum is Marcel Broodthaers. In his MusÈe d¡rt Moderne, DÈpartement des Aigles, Broodthaers exposes the antiquated structures of what a museum is actually meant to provide, and in so doing robs both artists and their public of every reliable means of orientation. Whilst much irony and self-irony accompany Broodthaers' onslaughts, EVA's and ADELE's sense of mission is characterized by a clever kind of humour without which they would be unable to sustain their exciting, mostly arduous life of constant nonconformism.ì We are speaking of an art of life which does not deny contradictions but consists in a way of life as art." And when they claim "Wherever we are is museum", EVA & ADELE mean in the final analysis that the museum in its old, traditional form has now been superseded by a 'museum'which 'happens'everywhere and is a completely natural part of everyday life. It is precisely this reinterpretation of the notion of the 'museum' which EVA & ADELE are fighting for at the very front. And there is nothing Utopian futuristic about their mission, for their future is the present, indeed they themselves are from the future.
EVA & ADELE usually arrive all of a sudden, appearing from nowhere like extraterrestrial beings, and indeed it is not unusual for them to have a pair of wings sewn to the backs of their identical costumes. All the same, we cannot possibly confuse them with heavenly messengers, for their get-up is much too weird and smart, and their heads, far from being adorned by a tangle of angel's golden locks, are completely bald. But for all that, EVA & ADELE have something angelic about them, for they bring tidings of hope and reassurance, but these tidings are not of the religious kind, not the message of salvation we know from the past. On the contrary, their message belongs to the present and comes straight from the future. "Futuring" is the social message which these two artists bring. Like angels, they are without a history, without a past. They have no biography and, like angels, are of puzzling indeterminable gender. And it is precisely in these characteristics, that the core of their message lies.
The realization that neither EVA nor ADELE wanted to define themselves expressly as male and/or female was seized by both of them as a chance to implement "gender self-identification as a socio-political factor". "The idea of art being life and one's own life already being art runs like a thread through EVA's and ADELE's entire work. Indeed, it is the guiding principle of their constant striving for liberation from those power structures which turn the subject into the object, from those mechanisms and processes which eventually exercise complete control over the lives of human beings. EVA & ADELE are, for their part, concerned with liberating themselves from accepted views of the world in order to comprehend reality as it really is. It is the kind of liberation, therefore, which must be comprehended in terms of a subversion of self-determination which in turn comprehends self-determination as self-subversion."7
EVA & ADELE want to inspire people with courage, to render given hierarchies powerless in order to be able to live and work in their own self-determined way. Bˆhringer's notion of 'autopoiesis', 8 the development of self through differentiation, is already realized by EVA & ADELE in the way they make their indeterminable sex, their 'differentness', seem extraordinary. This involves them in a difficult balancing act which they have to perform again and again lest they be classed as heterosexual. But nobody would ever hit upon the idea that he had a couple of hookers before him either. After all, these beings from the future and ladies of easy virtue are worlds apart.
The fact that EVA & ADELE permanently appear as art figures, and are always recognizable as such, differentiates them from the artists duo Gilbert and George who, whilst leading the way as self-styled "living sculptures", appear in normal everyday attire and approach the problem from the other, normal side. Moreover, Gilbert and George openly admit to being homosexual, and they more or less recede into the background behind their artefacts. Above all, however, contact with their fellow human beings, does not have a central part to play in their work. For EVA & ADELE, on the other hand, meeting people is not only a "two-headed" affair of the heart but also an endless source of material and inspiration for their entire concept of 'art in life and life in art'.
1 Ulrich Krempel, "What's the name of the film you're making?", in: CUM, EVA & ADELE, exhib. Catalogue, Sprengel Museum, Hanover, 1997, p. 10
2 EVA & ADELE in a faxed message to the author dated 20th December 1998
3 Hannes Bˆhringer, "Attention in Clair-Obscur: Die Avantgarde", in: Aisthesis, Reclam, Leipzig, 1992, p. 18
4 Josef Beuys in conversation with Dieter Koepplin, quoted from Adam C. Oellers, Der "erweiterte Kunstbegriff" - auch eine Aufgabe des Museums, in: Regel und Ausnahme. Festschrift Hans Holländer, Aachen, 1995, p.303
5 Ibid., p. 303
6 Ibid.,Beuys according to Oellers, p. 22
7 Paolo Bianchi, Art as the invention of life, in: CUM, EVA & ADELE, exhib. Catalogue, Sprengel Museum, Hannover, 1997, p. 21
8 Hannes Böhringer, op. cit, p. 22