The Art of Recycling Myths: The Eternal Return of Evita
As a result of the deep socio-economic crisis of 2001, Argentina is a country that has been experiencing one of the most intense and dynamic “crisis of representation.” Due to the lack of credibility of the national institutions, politicians, banking and financial system, one of the recovery strategies is the rescue of characters, events, and symbolic elements that operate on memory and identity.
One of these icons, perhaps one of the most present in the collective unconscious is the figure of Eva Duarte de Perón (1919–1952) the second wife of President Juan Domingo Perón (1895–1974) and the First Lady of Argentina from 1946. In Argentina it is not a new that the figure of Evita is taken as fervent and combative advocate for women, social and labor rights of the working class and her image has been elevated to the status of myth a long time ago.
Globally, the presence of Evita on the arenas of the cultural industry has a long history, from its beginnings as an actress, her public appearances with Perón and even after her death. The process of culturally recycling the iconographic image of Evita not only reappears in large arsenals of the cultural industry; not long ago the Central Bank of Argentina launched an edition of 100 pesos banknotes (highest denomination banknotes in the local economy) showing Evita’s figure. So, the “inspiration” that artists and cultural producers take from this figure publicly exposes a rhetoric reaffirmation more attractive for a historical amusement park than for the future of contemporary art.
However, Nicola Constantino, who represents Argentina at this year’s Venice Biennale and who is undoubtedly one of the best and most talented of the local scene, will surely achieve a flawless result, even if her work often bets on high levels of provocation. This time she have the challenge to play with an almost untouchable figure, carefully preselected by the political class. Perhaps the most relevant here is the political role of the Foreign Ministry in the artist’s selection process and the commission of the Evita’s work. Even though Fernando Farina was appointed curator, there has been a high level of governmental advise and participation in the decisions about the “curatorial” issues (counting in even direct review by President Cristina Fernández de Kircher) such as the selection of Evita as main figure to represent the contemporary artistic production in Argentina.
A curatorial decision of the government was to “add” an additional room to offer the official version of the image of Evita: Constantino’s installation was originally divided into four parts that reflect different moments in Evita’s life. But the government staged the fifth space entitled “institutional information space” with three videos containing images from Eva Perón and former President Nestor Kirchner and the President Cristina Fernandez. Surprisingly the artist and the curator said that they were unaware of the existence of this room for propaganda, and then they wrote on the wall: “The curator and the artist considered this space unnecessary and it can confound the interpretation of the work.”
Playing between past and present, myth and reality, politics and representation, we finish with the words of Magdalena Faillace, general director of the Argentinean Foreign Ministry’s Cultural Affairs “…one of the interesting aspects of this work, is that Evita is taken from the mythical aspect rather than from an exclusively politicized. She’s a myth that transcends national borders and that is still under study, literature and films.“Etcetera (Loreto Garin Guzman and Federico Zukerfeld)