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Published: 03 October 2013

By Andy Ross

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The power of art

Our favourite piece in our recent Biennale visit is one by Nicola Costantino in the Argentinian pavilion.

A tribute to Eva Peron, possibly the most famous woman in Argentinian history, the art work is in four parts, one a film, the second a stage set of Evita's bedroom, the third a metal dress depicting the metal armature that Eva apaprently wore to keep her upright during public appearances while in her final illness, and the fourth an operating theatre with lights and the operating table covered with ice cubes representing the tears of the people and the rain that fell on the day of the funeral.

The bedroom is part set and part film, showing Eva changing into different outfits which represent her as she aged and grew ill, from young woman in a flowery frock to a wedding dress and finally into a smart dress suit, but it is the first film that had us in tears.

The film was presented on a curved screen and showed a doorway on the left handside with a curtain across it, a desk with telephone and vase, a sofa, a door and an office desk on the right. As we watched, the actress playing an older vigorous Eva entered the space, striding briskly across from the left and across the entire set. Then a younger version of Eva came in, and each busied themselves in the rooms. As the moments passed, different versions of Evita came in and out of the film, until finally a frail and ill woman slowly walked across room and lay down on the sofa where she was joined by all the other versions. The last one to sit was Eva in a wedding dress who sat in the middle of the sofa causing the others to shuffle up, and she stared straight out into the watching audience. Then each got up and left the room. Finally only the oldest Eva was left who painfully rose to her feet and walked across to the doorway on the left, drawing aside the curtain and revealing a crowd who cheered in greeting. Eva put her head in her hands and visibly slumped as she wept before she closed the curtain and walked slowly offstage.

The power of this piece is in its simplicity and the understanding of the artist who created it. Showing the decline of Eva from a vigorous youthful woman to one who was ill and in the last stages of her life, the film was made with care and compassion and captures perfectly and beautifully the pathos and dignity of a life. It is a wonderfully evocative piece of theatre. See it if you can.