Few people create more of a stir when they enter the room than EVA & ADELE. You may not know them by name, but to see them is to have the image emblazoned on your memory forever. They are a fixture of art happenings around the world, including Art Basel Miami Beach, where I first spotted them in person last year. Starkly bald, both feminine, masculine, and neither, dressed identically and in high fashion, smiling, they managed to become the center of attention in a corridor lined with Picassos, Warhols, and other legends.
They were an incredible sight — a vision, really, somewhat disturbing — but for whatever reason I never got around to looking them up. But after I saw them again, at the Convention Center on Wednesday and at the Rubell house for a yogurt breakfast on Thursday, I got curious. Before I go further, here they are at the ABMB vernissage on Wednesday.
A recent profile in the Guardian describes EVA & ADELE, who, the piece says, “insist on the ampersand and capitals”, as an Austro-German couple who claim to be from the future, “having landed their ‘time machine’ in Berlin just before the wall fell in 1989.” Here’s an informative excerpt:
“We are an artwork,” says Adele in her high-pitched chirrup, when we meet in their eye-popping Berlin flat-cum-studio, a pink and white amalgamation of four apartments in a chi-chi block in Charlottenburg. Adele is the smaller, more outwardly female of the pair, who are both, since the start of this year, legally women. Personal details are sketchy: all they admit to in the biography section of their website are their vital statistics, which they work hard to maintain, since their goal is to keep looking exactly the same. That’s why the animal-shaped biscuits on offer in their studio are sugar-free, and why the pair begin each morning with a gymnastics session. Being a living artwork is tough.
The profile goes on to describe how the long-time couple got married earlier this year after Eva “won a gruelling three-year fight to have her sex changed on the register of births.” Though EVA & ADELE could have gotten a civil partnership in Germany at any time during their 22-year relationship, Eva first wanted the government to officially recognize her unique gender identification.
“I’m neither a man nor a woman,” she told the Guardian. “Neither is Adele. We’ve invented our own sex.”
What matters to Eva and Adele is not only the work of art itself, but the very notion of art. The idea of art in life and life in art is what guides the artists in their constant effort to free themselves of pre-established universal paradigms in order to seize reality as it really is. “There is a high price to pay,” they say. “We cross the existing gender to create a new one. As artists, it opens up for us an experimental field that is far more significant; socially, the limits unveil themselves more confusingly; in a general manner, people accept the difference, but if one is not gay, nor lesbian, nor hetero, then a great silence settles.”
While EVA & ADELE clearly practice life as art, they are also artists in the conventional use of the word. The couple have work in several German museums, according to their website, and an ongoing series of self-portraits based on photographs of themselves from newspapers called MEDIAPLASTIC. In the end, though, EVA & ADELE identify foremost as living art, as suggested by their catchphrase: “Wherever we are is museum.”
The fact that wherever they are is often actually a museum is besides the point. EVA & ADELE are worth the price of admission.