“It’s funny!” laughed Adele when Glamcult met her and “living artwork” partner Eva in Italy earlier this year. We had asked them how they met, and in Adele’s laughter, between our question and their answer, was what must be a very familiar moment for them: the possibility of a kind of double thinking, asking the audience to believe in their story while obviously knowing it to be untrue. “A giant time-travelling machine,” Eva quipped, playfully unimpressed.
Perhaps best known in the UK for their bizarre, ritualistic appearances as The Eggheads on ’90s TV staple Eurotrash, EVA & ADELE landed in Berlin just in time to witness the fall of the wall. In one of the first major art events of the new German capital, EVA & ADELE married at the Gropius-Bau in 1991. It was a kind of double unification, Berlin and them (each receiving almost equal attention in the media) that anticipated a future as gloriously queer as the happy couple. There was a kind of hopefulness to the wedding, a wide-eyed belief in the future, perhaps stemming from the ecstasy of the fallen wall. And hope continues to be a central aspect of EVA & ADELE’s work. But is hope always optimistic? Can hope be disappointed, be political?
Too bald (phallically so, Eva says), too much pink chiffon, too much turquoise eye shadow and too many ’80s two-pieces: EVA & ADELE are a meticulously camp feast for the eyes. To think that they kept their endearingly hard-core German accents—or in Eva’s case, we suspect Austrian, though she won’t tell—quiet for the first seven years of their performance (for lack of a better term) is extraordinary. They wanted to remain strictly visual, they explain, wanted to simply be in a space, smiling. There is something extremely caring and generous in this silence, a state of being only for others. And even as they have begun speaking (extensively, one might say, interviewed by every magazine of note in the field), this generosity—their sheer likability—stands out as one of their greatest strengths. Their smiles are impossible to resist.
For this reason also, EVA & ADELE kiss all the best cheeks at Art Basel and the Venice Biennale. Glasses-in-hand, matching purses, this two-headed super-mingler may easily be read as a prophecy fulfilled; the present arrival of the happy future their queerness promises, a utopia come, a battle already won. Again: wide-eyed, even uncritical. “Futuring,” they say again and again in their interviews and in their art, when asked what they do. But because the art institution has a tendency within its own space to neutralize subversive potentials, in that space EVA & ADELE very quickly become too quaint, too kitsch, too retro—and not at all “future”. As the favourite eccentric grandmothers of the European art scene, their subversive potential risks being overlooked.
For EVA & ADELE’s glass-carrying flamboyance was always driven by political struggle. Firstly, Eva has continuously and publically fought against transphobic gender legislation, and naturally their wedding in 1991 was groundbreaking not only for its historical context. Additionally, from the outset their participation in various prestigious art events across Europe was uninvited: a takeover of and a confrontation with the good taste and exclusivity of the established art world. Being a living sculpture in constant performance—or simply fabulously showstopping—EVA & ADELE, whether commissioned to or not, have intervened with and contributed to many of the seminal exhibitions of the past two decades. Simply via their presence (and despite their insistence that their only weapons are their smiles), these ladies have performed a type of passive-aggressive guerrilla warfare on normativity both in the art world and on the street. Their coming from the future does not translate into uncritical eccentricity or utopian escapism: it is politics.
Understanding “futuring” comes down to whether we must conceptualize the future as always rigidly distinct from the present and past on a linear trajectory. For while it takes a big leap of faith to believe that EVA & ADELE may actually be from the future, they are indisputably of the future: the queer future. When they walk down the street they represent the possibility of an alternative, as well as the hope for one, and the active struggle to arrive one day at that future. When they bypass the present and insist on a future that is sterile and of an indeterminate third gender, they are confronting a normative futurism, which has at its centre heterosexual reproduction. In other words: the reproduction of existing systems of oppression. The future EVA & ADELE want to evoke is not about reproduction, and not really about the future either. Rather, enacting a queer future in the present becomes a way of exposing an actually existing queer reality.
Again: EVA & ADELE walking down the street. This is the actual event, the fabric of their art. “We move without any protection,” Adele says. “It was sometimes really dangerous.” There is a type of hopefulness there, at its root much more bound up with fear than with optimism. The enduring indeterminacy of their work marks it as an act of defiance. Queerness being historically an identity confined to certain private spaces—bars, clubs, (art) scenes—it is interesting that the only place EVA & ADELE do not appear as queer as we know them is in their home. Becoming EVA & ADELE (becoming queer) is a ritualistic and prolonged event that takes three hours and “all the energy one has”. Shaving. Waiting. Painting. Getting ready to go out. Their art exists everywhere they go, shaved and painted, and is located between them as a call, and the response of the world around them. Exposure as resistance—coming out—is one of the basest and most vital forms of queer resistance. EVA & ADELE’s act is defiantly public. In fact, one of the most striking aspects of their work is the consistency, the adamancy with which they have turned up, come out, been out only and always in the public.
Adele explains: “Every confrontation, or every inspiration we give, in the street, in the U-Bahn, is a moment of inspiration for the people we see, also a moment of communication. In the U-Bahn a young girl came up to us. The young girl, a very, very normal young girl, and she sits and she looks and looks and looks, and asks: ‘Are you like that every day?’ And we say, ‘Yes,’ and she says, ‘Courage! You must have such courage!’ And I think, This is a really good situation. Wherever we are is a museum.” This slogan is one that permeates their practice and encapsulates both the anti-institutional, defiant and political elements of their work, as well as its openness: the care, the humour and the warmth that has made EVA & ADELE’s confrontation with the contemporary (art) world so successful.