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Twin Power

For Frank and Patrik Riklin, the best art is not recognizable as such. With their Swiss Atelier für Sonderaufgaben (Studio for special works), the two brothers create interventions in every day live, embedding the society as a part of them. Among the multiple desks and tables, massively loaded with files and books, two rows of orange folding chairs, scraped from a movie theatre, face a white wall. The loft-studio of Frank and Patrik Riklin is on the top floor of a former textile factory in St. Gallen at Lake Constance, and it seems rather a charming office than an artists‘ place. The Swiss brothers often work with the film footage that keeps records of their artistic coups. Laying back in the first row of their home cinema, they show me some recently cut sequences of an upcoming project. I was worrying how to distinguish the identical twins before I met them. However I had to recognize, that mixing up identities is not their drive, even though sometimes on portraits they present themselves as masters in that play. "Art has to have a clear function", Patrik says earnestly, and his brother Frank shares that conviction: "It should be placed in the middle of society, not in the museum! The best peaces of art are not recognised as such."


The Anti Star Hotel concept
10 years ago, when the twins still separately went to art schools in Zurich and in Berlin, they founded "Atelier für Sonderaufgaben". Since then, they developed interventions in the public space, video productions, seminars and training courses. Their approach is to analyse coherences as artists. Detached from the overall system, they search for unconventional solutions, interacting with people who often become actors in their plans. Only in October last year, the Frank and Patrik Riklin became suddenly famous overnight. Commissioned by the local authorities of Sevelen, a small town apart of tourism in the Swiss Alps, Frank and Patrik created a concept how to use the nuclear bunker in the middle of the town for guests of the cultural centre the community had decided to build. The "Zero Star Hotel" is a concept for a low-budget-hostel the two brothers already organized two test-sleeping events for. Together with the people of Sevelen, they furnished the naked bunker rooms with bulky items. There is no warm water, the heating is only up to 15 degrees – detail in the Hotel pretends to be anything else than a bunker. The Riklins made an advantage of all the disadvantages from civil defence facilities that must at all times be ready to revert to their original function. Operated by the people of Sevelen without any extra budget, Frank and Patrik want the Hotel to be a meeting place for guests with different social backgrounds, solidly united in the experience by sleeping in a bunker. And the astonishing worldwide success of their concept concedes to that idea. Today, the Riklins laugh to each other, taken by surprise of the inquiries from Kanada, Vietnam and many other countries they got. "We have bookings of large groups during the next meeting of the world economic Forum in Davos which is very near to Sevelen", Frank says, mentioning also a request to built a Zero Star Hotel in the UK. Registered the name in German an English, the twins plan to sell 12 licences for convenient bunkers in Switzerland, including strict rules of their artistic concept for the trade mark. There are lot of bunkers in the alpine confederation. Some people even say there might be more bunkers than Swiss.

The smallest on top
In St. Gallen in their studio, Frank and Patrik Riklin organize the whole process of their projects, including the more than 30 press inquiries a day that came up with the Zero Star Hotel. Some of their ideas and artistic interventions are taking a long time to be executed. For the Summit of the 6 smallest communes of Europe, the brothers where travelling a lot around Europe to find those officially declared smallest communes of the countries and talk to their mayors. When they invited them to Appenzell, where they organized a meeting on the top of a mountain, some of the guests and the first ladies acted their feelings. "I was deeply moved" says the French mayor with tears in his eyes, documented in the Film the Riklins did on the summit. Next year, they plan to show a TV format of this project, and there are still some more meetings to be planned.

Playing jokes
"Basically, we do nothing else than we did as kids, when we were playing in the sand table", the Riklins say. "Our sand table today it the Atelier für Sonderaufgaben. It was actually founded in our childhood." The interventions the two scallywags combine are placed in a political and social context. Often there is an ironic touch. That is the case of the "Urban Teleophone", the twins had recently installed in the street, on the fa¡ade of the Town Hall in Chur. It is a public phone, an old shabby one from the primitive times of communication, that people can call by a certain number communicated by the local authorities. By calling, they accept a donation to an Ngo defined for the project, and they adventure to talk to any passer-by who feels responsible to answer the call in order to save the donation. The concept reminds on the phoning game kids do: Just call a number and see who is answering. During the three month the Public Phone collected more than 500 CHF of donations for deafs. The brothers plan several further stations for the project – it could be a worldwide thing, Patrik Riklins says, and goes to get the Swisscom protocols that are carefully kept in the studio. One day, there were more than 20 calls, but only 5 had been answered. People are anxious to get in a conversation with somebody they don`t know. But the twins will go on. After all, society is their playing field. Sandra Hofmeister.