The Journey as a Becoming of the World
Hellas and the Beginning of a Shared Being
A girl dressed all in white is dancing in a meadow. The dew on the grass, the fragile blossoms beneath her feet, the dark blue of approaching dawn changing gradually to pink, to gold; a faint ringing of bells wafts by. From a lonely house of grey stone the dim silhouette of a face peers out; one sees overgrown train tracks, a sheep picks its way over the meagre undergrowth on gaunt hooves, a summer in the south smells of thyme, rosemary and shimmering heat over dusty dirt roads.
With black-ringed eyes the girl gazes up at the azure of the sky; the girl is a Hellenistic Ephebe, a virginal Iphigenia, one consecrated to God treading to the sacrifice, a youth with a shaved head on the path to Temenos. A tale is being told, an archetypical legend from the depths of history. A guideline is given from the origins of the myths to the appearance of theatre, from the beginning of the journey to the creation of one’s own world.
A being is dancing over a meadow and at the same time is pacing out the circumference of a stage that is nothing less than the world itself. The movement of the dance is the appropriation of the world and the formulation of a yearning: I am in you, and you are my I. The movement is a marriage of articulation with perception: I dance while you watch me. Your gaze rests on me and I perform your movements.
Far off there is music but here it is still
Drowsy scents of the flowers advance
I have always considered myself yours
I wish to sleep but you must dance
Music resounds; it rushes without pause
Candles burn brightly, violins regale
Dancers separate, then circle anew
Everything shimmers but you remain pale
And so you must dance, strange arms enfold you
They’re after your heart; oh please, do not yield
Your white gown flutters like gossamer wings
Be a butterfly, glide over the field
The night is perfumed by hyacinths sweet
I’m captivated and fall into trance
I have always considered myself yours
I wish to sleep but you must dance1
Hellas is the poetic protocol of a becoming. It documents the gradual growing together of the artist duo EVA & ADELE: in intention and daily life, in inner attitude and outer appearance. It also describes the precise demarcation of a world that will, in future, be the pair’s sphere of life. Everything they undergo, conquer and achieve is part of their world and part of their life; all the locales and places of our world in which they appear belong to the detailed guidelines for the life and path of their artistic concept. What began with Hellas is carried further day by day. The dance over the meadow is a careful birthing after which will follow a long becoming, the growing of a new identity.
It is no coincidence that the journey to Greece proceeds over the traces of archaic civilizations, not without reason that the path leads over Apennine landscapes, far from the beaten tracks of tourism and far away from the idyllic brochures, to the Aegean wastelands. Lonely country roads are driven over in the camping bus, solitary regions are headed for, discarded routes are emulated. Where there is no-one, something new will arise; where no-one lives who can remember the past something will move that progresses towards the future; EVA & ADELE are on the way to their “FUTURING Project”.
The cinematic diary Hellas is brought to light as a document of the mutual becoming of I and as an example of an ultimate honeymoon at a time when for the first time the shared history of EVA & ADELE is being viewed in a retrospective. The two have been around for twenty years now and in these two decades they have become an essential component of the international art-event world without repudiating their own world of art and life.
The wedding, the initial event of their publicly celebrated life together, took place in 1991 on the occasion of the exhibition Metropolis in Berlin in the Martin Gropius Bau. However, two years before there had been the overture to what was to become a kind of merging. Both artists agreed to work together on their artistic projects; this was followed by an unremitting and irreversible alignment of their beings.
The journey to Hellas was the first step in this direction. And it became much more than a trial honeymoon: it became the genesis of a double artistic personality that owed thanks to the expunging of the respective individual personal histories.2
The girl in the white dress is a being without a past; the observing eye of the camera belongs to a film-maker without identity. Two people who, because of their encounter slough off their skins, so to speak, live towards one another and interleave into one another. Everything that could evoke the burden and ballast of a preceding existence is stripped off; the outer change is the visible means for undertaking this and their appearance will henceforth be their trademark3. Nevertheless, above and beyond this, the fundamental alteration is what makes possible such external settings: feeling towards the Other in the I, and searching for what is the Same in the Counterpart. Both individuals are artistic characters through and through in whom is deeply embedded a revolt against time-honoured codes and norms, against conventional societal stereotypes. However, this rebellion is by no means a form of berserk actionism but rather a gentle inclination of the head in the other direction, a serene negating and a smiling passing-over. This might not always have been the case as a human maturation, which was necessary and fundamental for the gauging of the equilibrium in terms of content, preceded the mutual becoming a pair. Here, then, one plus one still makes one and not the sum of two different entities. The possible diversification between the former biographic lifelines is sacrificed on the altar of shared life planning. The erased early lives create the necessary space, yes, almost a vacuum, that draws the facets of the becoming into it with the pull of a black hole. Both were never strangers to what was metamorphic in being an artist, both were caught in a chrysalis of role images from which they were apparently unable to free themselves without help. The shared path, the venturing on a journey in the smallest space and in a situation of immediate proximity became the magical event of transition, the transformation of one being into another, from two different personalities into a common one. Nor is a form of role allocation intended: in a work of art that is art and life at the same time,4 there can be no allocated roles and no traditional hierarchies. As were the personal biographies, so were other conventional schemata sacrificed. This proverbial tabula rasa allows of undertaking, artistically and existentially, a new beginning. Hellas, or Journey to Greece, which, significantly, commenced from the Italian Casa Rasa5, is on the one hand a journey away from the past and a specific individuality and on the other a journey towards a new future and a mutual becoming of being. The journey itself, therefore, becomes the synonym for becoming and the emergence of a new existence. The unique documentation of this journey is a heretofore unseen compendium of pictures, an intimate poem in seven verses bearing witness to the magical fascination of Eros and the boundless power of the imagination a profession of faith and a hymn to a world without obstacles and conventions.
The eternal bride
She lives her whole life in expectation of the wedding and in her knowledge of the preparations: Die ewige Braut6 is hung with jewellery, clothed and provided with advice. She waits, holding a bouquet of red blossoms, like a mute and enduring promise.
Here, a modern fairytale is being told, one fed from the old epics and legends and fanned by a breath of the fantastic. EVA & ADELE go on a journey to another country and return as something else from the shores of the beyond. As does plunging into water that reflects their dreams, so does the progression purify them of the adhesive remnants of their earlier lives and open up new worlds. The modern fairytale describes a country in which animals graze in meadows, flowers and fruit grow, in which there are dark caves, holy fires, clear rivers and wide skies. A country in which one can live and sleep, in which one can wander and dance, in which one departs and arrives without worry and without sorrow.
The bride’s veil is carried on the breeze in the ancient olive orchard, candles are being lit on the threshold, stones are being piled up the ceremony will take place years later; the eternal bride looks back from the future at the events, an aeroplane makes buzzing laps around the firmament.
Hellas tells the story of the marriage between EVA & ADELE, the story of the eternal bride and of the constant expectation. The six chapters on the way to the becoming are joined by an epilogue twelve years later: the story of the wedding and the fulfilment. EVA & ADELE have transposed their mutual genesis into a shared life and work and have crowned it with the seventh chapter: two brides look into the camera, bells ring, roses twinkle.
The story of the creation of an individual, new identity is not without history. The road to forgetting is also the road to the future. Between this plumbing of the present, future and past, the medium of film purports to be the ideal narrative vehicle because peculiarly innate to it is the possibility of stopping, of going forwards or backwards or moving at different speeds. Hellas also tells the story of EVA & ADELE as an example of a modern existence: When life becomes a work of art and art is lived being, then the borders between a productive lifetime and creaturely reflections are levelled. Every creative gesture is at the same time an everyday act, every trivial task is at the same time reinforced by the aura of artistic intention. Here, the perversion of a society based on a division of labour is truly overcome and the ultimate degree of holism attained. Here also, however, integration into the art business is implemented, a business from which EVA & ADELE distance themselves but around which they still remain in orbit. Their presence at all important international art events, which formerly took place purely commentatively, experiences an expansion in the permeation of art performance and art presentation. If formerly the premise was the postulation, endorsed and interpreted time and again by many authors that, “We are the works of art”7, now it is now increasingly the claim, “We are showing our works of art!”8 Thus are the portents reversed: the recipient, the interpreter, does not make their appearance the work of art but rather themselves, as artists9. EVA & ADELE compile their works of art as a part of the daily process of living ad mastering their lives. That they themselves represent the constantly recurring theme of their artistic activity and that they place their media image at centre stage of their enterprise does not mean in reverse that they themselves are not an active part of this current art scene of which they represent, so-to-speak, the incontrovertible exclamation marks.10
And therefore it is not only the being-portrayed that is the “primary material of their invention of new forms”11; the mute, fabled journey to the appropriation of the world and the conquering of the self is thus a stringently formulated document of the portrayed becoming.
Concept art and baroque passion
Even without having recourse to the period before the Hellas journey one can decipher that both Eva and Adele must have had a very reflective relationship to the art and art production of their time. They did not tumble naively or childishly into the experience of their journey together; rather, from the outset their shared beginning was based firmly in the context of art. Following on from what was actually a coincidental encounter, a conceptive strategy for the implementation of the aspired sublimation of experience and its contemplation soon emerged. The alteration of their physical appearance and the optical similarity in wardrobe and presentation was not arrived at via an intuitive and spontaneous approach nor via a vague fancy for masquerade12, the process was too thoroughly thought-out and adhered to too consistently over the years for that. Rather, a creative process was instigated that progresses in its differentiation and intensity absolutely without compromise. The medium documenting this metamorphosis was the film compendium that has so far been denied to the public13. The poses, movements, dance steps, costumes and divestments all evolved for and with the film. With the camera work, formal associations and symbolic allusions were made, existential questions were posed and radical about-turns enacted.
The cutting which took place later, the reduced insertion of minimalist image and sound track, the concentrated form and the simultaneity of the presentation in seven adjacent projections running concurrently are proof of the professional and theoretical basic armature on which this complex travel document is built.
The videos act as a storage medium for a picture story and thus as a medium of remembrance of a process culminating in the new being. Working out the conceptive approach in the oeuvre of EVA & ADELE has yet to be undertaken; nevertheless, what is conceptual in their artistic practice and their methodical procedure cannot be overlooked. The daily documentation of the optical becoming process in Polaroid photographs corresponds to a media-staging strategy that has been known since the 1970s. The pool has now grown to comprise some thousands of Polaroids a personal iconography to which the lineal growth of the time diagrams is due. Apart from this there are ranged sequential works that include protagonists and percipients according to the participatory principle: they function by virtue of strategic concepts that require consideration and direction.
A sensuous, erotic, even blatant baroque content makes use of these conceptive formats in a downright oppositional confrontation: where theatrical aspects become well-nigh excessive and exuberant, the distinct and severely formal corset constrains the effervescent emotional gesture. Where the stringent and reflexive components of the media form can be perceived as hermetic or brittle, the narrative, poetic and ironic character of the performance relativizes what is purely conceptive and systematic.
EVA & ADELE always narrate a story; the story of their self-becoming, the Becoming the World, the story of their art events and their encounters with people, the story of the strange integration in foreign life compositions or the conspicuous reflections in other media public displays. They themselves are the protagonists of this wide-ranging narrative material and they are more reliable than all the actors in plays or performative stagings. This is because they are always there, even when they are not seen. They are like the baroque spirit that inspires opulent feasts, rich clothes or spectacular performances and creates from them a sensual universe without neglecting the apotheosis of religious rituals and the effective theatrical stage-settings. They are the ruffle-girded angels descending from the heavens and conquering the inert strangers and their aura of the commonplace. Within the whole of this staged game lies hidden the concept that was the catalyst and impetus for Hellas: the journey towards oneself as the journey to conquer a new world. EVA & ADELE have always been true to this principle and within the framework of this concept they continue to develop their artistic work a young and uncompromising work between conceptual stringency and a baroque sensuality.
1 Theodor Storm, Hyacinths; the poem was written as an invocation to an (impossible) love. First published 1852, quoted here: Theodor Storm, Sämtliche Werke, hrsg. von Karl Ernst Lage und Dieter Lohmeier, Frankfurt/Main 1987, Bd. 1, Gedichte. Novellen 1848-1867, S. 23.
Here we are dealing less with how EVA & ADELE are perceived (by the art world) and how they might be regarded as an ironic commentary on the ìeventificationî of art events, and more with how the genesis of their artistic presence might have taken place. EVA & ADELE have also discerned in the textual interpretations of their life-art concept so far an ìincredible need to describeî their outer appearance and their performances.
3 One always speaks of brands or brand names when the concurrence of immediate external recognizability and calculable content is intended. This is valid for EVA & ADELE insofar as it pertains solely to the realm of their performances and negates thereby the potential of an individual artistic endeavour; cf. Mark Gisbourne, Double Act, Munich 2007, III.67.
4 cf. Sabine Kampmann, K¸nstler Sein, (Being an Artist) Munich 2006, p.144.
5 Casa Rasa is the name of a farm in Tuscany where the two artistsíjourney to Greece commenced.
6 Tschingis Aitmatow, Der Schneeleopard, (The Snow Leopard) Zurich 2007; the protagonist develops the material of his planned opera Die ewige Braut (The Eternal Bride) to correspond to his own life story.
7 “Wherever we are is museumî is one of the best-known slogans of EVA & ADELE.
8 “The art business has recognized EVA & ADELE only hesitantly and partially” says Robert Fleck in: EVA & ADELE, exhibition catalogue Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, Ostfildern 1999, p. 60, and demands appreciation of not only their performance art but also the acceptance of their painting.
9 “Life art as a programme” is what Sabine Kampmann calls it, see footnote 4, p.149.
10 And so for percipients, their works of art, independent of their performances, are pictures, graphic art, photographs, video films just as others and as such should be questioned as to their genesis, content and context. This offers a slightly different point of view than that of Mark Gisbourne who writes, ÑThe new paintings by EVA % ADELE ñ called by them mediaplastic ñ are mereley a natural result and an accumulation of the museum life (i.e., Ñart lifeì MZ) that they lead.ì Mark Gisbourne, EVA & ADELE. Geschlossene Gesellschaft, Berlin 2004.
11 Mark Gisbourne, see note.3, III.85.
12 “Maskerade”, for instance, uses the artist duo Muntean and Rosenblum to describe their double authorship whereby the mask could offer them “protection from the problematical identification” of their own role, cf. Mark Gisbourne, see note.3, III.67.
13 The Hellas Journey was originally documented on 13 VHS tapes of 60 minutes each. The original titles were: 1 The Blue Chicken / 2 The Green Fire / 3 Casa Rasa / 4 Via Appia / 5 The Bow to Earth / 6 Poseidon Olympia and Four Eggs / 7 Two Green Eyes / 8 The Arcadian Bride / 9 Firebird / 10 The American Bride / 11 The Cat Woman / 12 Kaliste / 13 Atlantis. From this material 6 video films were made of 33 minutes each. A seventh video was made in 2001 and cutting and post editing was undertaken in 2007.