Lucian Comoy: Evita, a sort of St Margaret Thatcher at the Argentina pavilion

Eva/Argentina: the pairing seems almost a cliché, especially when viewed from abroad. However there are, of course, two Evitas—the star, the demagogue, the tragic figure who knew that nothing assures immortality better than an early death—and Eva the woman, the human being. For the Argentine Pavilion in the Arsenale, Nicola Costantino has sought to present the personal Eva beyond the myth (not for nothing does the exhibition mention “Eva” and not “Evita”), using contemporary art as the medium. And in so doing, helps deflate the exalted image of this most controversial star.

A video still of a vulnerable-looking Eva brushing her hair in Nicola Costantino's Eva - Argentina: una metafora contemporanea (Eva-Argentina: a contemporary metaphor), 2012

The installation is divided into four sections. The first, "Los sueños" (Dreams), depicts the artist playing six Evas: the ill, the hyperactive, the young dreaming actress, the first lady in Dior, Eva at home and as ghostly figure. The second shows Eva’s bedroom, empty but with the mirrors reliving past scenes in a clever play of moving images. The third is a sort of dodgem with Eva profile, endlessly, frenetically pacing a small area, driven by will but without substance (Eva the strength). And the last shows an operating table with a heap of ice cubes, the frozen tears of the Argentines mourning her death (Eva the rain). The dripping of the water echoes the rain of those cold days of her funeral.

Like all Argentinians, Costantino carries a childhood baggage associated with the “Evita’” legend, a biased, stereotypical image that she has sought to brush away with this installation, radically different to her earlier work as “human furrier”. Eva pervades Argentinian consciousness, polarising opinion in a manner difficult for someone outside the country to conceive (like a sort of blonde St Margaret Thatcher, if you will): you love her or hate her.

The artist’s skill lies in opening a debate about this partial image, and it is a timely one: significantly, the Argentine government has plonked a sort of video hagiography at the end of the room, in which we see film of Evita and the voice of Cristina Kirchner, the latter-day, would-be Evita. Time to move on, methinks.

Worth the detour

Lucian Comoy is the director of Words of Art and a correspondent for the Antiques Trade Gazette

Published Wed, 29 May 2013 18:08:00 GMT

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