Never heard of them? Well, perhaps you should have, because they claim to be "the future of art". The French avant-garde art magazine Technikart compares them to Warhol's Campbell's Soup Tins. They also feature in two respected travel guides - one of Berlin, where they live, and the other of Manhattan. The latter shows them running along a pavement in red vinyl jackets and skirts. The caption reads: "In New York, people who thought they were alone find there are more people like them".
Still, there can't be too many people in the world quite like Eva and Adele. Their apartment building near Berlin's Nollendorf Platz does not appear to be in any way out of the ordinary. The outside of the building is covered in graffiti, the stairwell is a sickly yellow. The first sign that the inhabitants of the third floor may be somewhat unusual is the door of their apartment. Instead of the regulation chocolate brown, it is a vibrant electric blue.
The couple themselves are even more colourful. In fact, they look distinctly strange. They both have shaved heads and on our first meeting are dressed identically in pink vinyl jackets, shiny silver skirts and black patent leather stilettos. Drop pearl earrings hang from their lobes and pearl necklaces and bracelets adorn their necks and wrists. They are always dressed exactly the same as each other, and always in women's clothes, which they design themselves. Pink and green vinyl are especially well represented in their wardrobe, as is fake leopardskin. "Where do you get your inspiration?" I ask. "From the fashion world?" "Not at all," replies Adele. "I think that the fashion world gets its inspiration from us. Pink vinyl is now very fashionable, but we started with pink vinyl years before anyone else."
Their outrageous clothing is only part of their strangeness. There's also their shaved heads. By mixing sexual indicators, the couple claim to go "over the boundaries of gender". None the less, it is easy to see that Adele is female. Eva is more complicated. Though she dresses as a female, "she" looks and sounds distinctly male. On the other hand, she does not appear to have an Adam's apple, and she does "her" best to preserve the confusion. Asked if "she" is a man, "she" obliquely replies: "I am the first lady" - a reference to Eve (Eva in German) in the Garden of Eden. "My part from nature is to be female and Adele is more male," she continues. "Adele learnt femininity from me."
"Eva is a man," the editor-in-chief of Technikart, Raphael Turcat, assures me, "and they have a quite normal sex life" - in case I was wondering. Which I was. Turcat first came across them at Paris's contemporary art fair, the FIAC, in 1990. "At first I had a rather bad impression," he says. "I thought that they were simply eccentrics who wanted to be noticed." It was only later that he discovered that they had a seriousness of purpose to their lives spent travelling the globe from international art fair to exhibition opening to art party.
They may never have exhibited a painting or a drawing or a sculpture, but Eva and Adele see themselves as living and breathing works of art. They walk around hand-in-hand at art parties, stand around in front of canvases and wait to be photographed. They are what could be described as performance artists, though they themselves vehemently reject the word "performance". "We are not giving performances because a performance has a beginning and an end," says Adele. "We do not stand on a podium in a gallery for a set time like Gilbert and George." Instead, they see their whole lives as a work of art - 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.
Indeed, they see "art of the future" transferred from traditional institutions into every part of daily life. One of their favourite phrases is "Wherever we are is museum." (They prefer to omit the indefinite article to make the term abstract. "In our minds, museum is not a building.") Thus, apparently, when Eva and Adele stop off at a service station, it is transformed into "museum". When they go to the supermarket, it is museum. And when they go for a pee, the toilet becomes museum too. Similarly, they see everything they do as a work of art: their smile is a work of art, their laugh, even shaving their heads.
Is this all simply mind-boggling egoism, albeit dual egoism? Well, probably. But could it also be art? Turcat certainly thinks so. "For me, you can start calling something `art' when three conditions are united - an aesthetic standpoint, an intellectual standpoint and a social standpoint. Art doesn't necessarily have to be beautiful, but it should have some aesthetic value. Through their appearances, Eva and Adele fulfil this condition. On an intellectual level, they question the very idea of the museum. Then, on a social level, art today should offer an answer to at least one question which society as a whole poses. They manage to highlight the uncertainty of sexual boundaries and our lack of identity."
They themselves see the most important part of their work as being their interaction with the public. "What they are interested in is not simply themselves," says Turcat, "but the way that other people look at them." They encourage art enthusiasts to take their pictures. After smiling for the camera, Eva hands the photographer a postcard from her clutch bag. On one side is a picture of them, on the other the legend "You have just made a photo of Eva and Adele, hermaphrodit [sic] twins in art." It also asks recipients to send them a copy of the photo. So far, they have an archive of more than 200 snapshots from as far afield as Australia and Japan.
In most museums and galleries, they effortlessly upstage the art works on show. "Nobody looks at the paintings when they are at an opening," a Parisian friend of mine assures me. "They just stare at them." Indeed, the photo which accompanied the article in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica about the opening of the last Venice Biennale was not of a conventional work of art or of one of the official artists; it was of Eva and Adele wearing flamboyant silver wings.
Their picture has appeared in publications all over the world, including Chinese and Russian dailies, and they love nothing better than to talk about themselves. Strangely, however, nobody seems to know that much about them. This is almost certainly due to their refusal to talk about anything to do with the past. Ask them their ages and they'll tell you that they come out of the future. Ask them how long they have been showing their faces in the art world and they playfully say: "That's a very good question, but we never talk about time or the past. Old people talk about the past. We talk about the future."
All the Berlin gallery owners I contacted knew of their existence, but none could fill in the blanks in their past. "They come by often for exhibition openings," I was told at Raab Galerie, "but they only ever make small talk." Even elementary information such as where they were born is impossible to get hold of. At the end of our meeting, they hand me their "biography". There are no surnames, no dates of birth. In fact, it is a single sheet of paper giving their names, heights and vital statistics.
Karl-Heinz Schmidt, the editor of the German art newspaper, Kunst Zeitung, tells me that he believes that, before they started travelling to art parties, Eva was a painter and Adele a fashion designer. But he's not sure. What they themselves tell me is that they are both trained artists who studied painting, sculpture and electronic media. On our second meeting, at Berlin's new Hamburger Bahnhof museum, they are also happy to tell me that they met on a football pitch in Italy. We are wandering among the Warhols, Keith Harings and Cy Twomblys. Even before I have got my entrance ticket, a young woman from Amsterdam has pointed her camera at them. A little later, a Parisian couple come up to pose with them and a group of Germans, who recognise them, come over and ask why they are not dressed in their favourite colour, pink. Other reactions range from scowls to sniggers to a look of complete perplexity on the face of a little girl.
Needless to say, they were at the museum's opening in November, and its founder, Erich Marx, has sent them a photo which he took of them at the Venice Biennale. They do not spend that much time in Berlin, preferring to travel for at least six months of the year. They fly at least twice a year to New York, where they are so well-known in art circles that many believe they are based there. In the past three years, they have accepted several all-expenses-paid invitations to Japan, as well as travelling widely through Europe in a camper van (which is - surprise, surprise - apparently a work of art in its own right).
During our first meeting at their apartment, a home video is playing in the kitchen. It shows them having breakfast on a campsite in Italy, dressed in silky red blouses and black skirts. They are on holiday, but their "art" continues. "And what do you wear to go walking? Hiking boots?" I ask. "Oh no, very nice female shoes," replies Eva, shocked that I could imagine otherwise. "Last summer," says Adele, in her slightly accented English, "we went high into the Swiss mountains. Other people looked at us very strangely."
It is not only mountaineers who react strongly to them. The German artist Georg Baselitz ran away from them when Eva tried to give him a postcard at the opening of an exhibition of his work in Berlin. A security guard once tried to refuse them entry to the Louvre, telling them that "We don't want people like you. You're not dressed correctly." And a young pizza vendor in Italy initially refused to serve them. "At first he was really shocked by us, but then we talked to him and on the last day, he gave us a kiss goodbye," they say triumphantly.
Teaching people tolerance is, they say, central to their work. "We think that people should be free to express their gender preferences without being discriminated against," says Adele. "Through our appearance, people start to think about strangeness and about respecting other people." What is really striking about them is just how normal they are behind their freaky exteriors. I, for one, had expected them to be disturbingly strange, but actually found them friendly, funny and down-to-earth.
They finance their travels by selling paintings and drawings to family and friends, but refuse to mention prices. "You must have a big family," I say. "Yes. It's like a clan," says Adele. One friend gave them their bed in return for a painting and another provided them with an office chair in exchange for a drawing. Throughout the time they have been "being" art at opening parties and museums, they have also been producing a body of material work, about which few in the art world are aware.
The owner of one of Paris's most forward-looking contemporary galleries, Jennifer Flay, has known the couple for more than 10 years, but only discovered about this side of their work 18 months ago. "For many years, we wanted to separate our appearances and our material work," they say. "We did not want to be commercial." However, now they have changed their minds and are currently preparing the first exhibition of their drawings and paintings, which will be held in Hanover's Sprengel Museum in May.
This plan clearly goes against part of their artistic manifesto - to bring art out of museums. The decision seems to have been dictated by their desire to be taken more seriously. "We want to show that our work is not only to smile and wave," says Adele. "We want to show there is also hard work." Eva adds: "For the serious and traditional art world, we're a shock. Painters don't look like Eva and Adele."
They proudly announce that I am the first journalist to visit their studio and seem almost uncontrollably enthusiastic about the fact. On the kitchen table, I am shown the two series of drawings on which they have secretly been working over the years. They refuse to say exactly who does what, but Eva seems to be more involved in the work. The first series is entitled "Cum" (Latin for with) and is a set of inkpen drawings based on the snapshots of themselves, which have been sent by amateur photographers around the world. The second is entitled "Mediaplastic" and reproduces pictures of them which have appeared in the media. Each is adorned with the logo of the publication, as well as Eva and Adele's own heart-shaped logo.
The drawings definitely display a certain talent. Certainly the director of the Sprengel Museum, Ulrich Grempel, who is mounting their exhibition, rates them highly. "Their material work is rich and outstanding," he says. While New York-based artist, Louise Bourgeois, told them : "I admire your drawings very much." Still, you can't help feeling that drawing and painting yourself all day is more than a teeny bit narcisstic. They, however, do not agree. "`Mediaplastic' is an analysis of the media because the media sees us in very different ways," they claim, "and every photo is the portrait of the photographer. With `Cum', the photographer is the main person. The main interest is not painting Eva and Adele."
The only room of their apartment which is not completely devoted to their work is the kitchen. One room is almost completely filled with 160 canvases covered in splodgy pink and orange paint and inscribed with the word "Futuring". Their bedroom has been invaded by oil paintings based on media photos of them. Alongside is a collection of vintage corsetry which they have picked up from flea markets in New York and London as well as a number of gold canvases on which they have inscribed some of their slogans, such as "The Beginning After The End of Art" and "Coming Out Of The Future".
They may seem sure that they are the future of art, but will 21st century art fans really be condemned to photographing androgynous couples rather than admiring paintings and sculptures?. "I'm sure they are the future of art for themselves," says Flay, "but I think that other traditional art forms will continue to have their place." In other words, maybe artists of the future won't have to shave their heads and wear pink vinyl after all.Reuse content