Film Reviews

REVIEW: Nicola Constantino - The Artefacta

Hot Docs 2015

Argentina, 75 min.
Directed by Natalie Cristiani
International Premiere

As an eight-year-old girl growing up in politically unstable Argentina, Nicola Costantino was a curious child who watched while her doctor-father performed surgery on a woman’s abdomen, painstakingly stitching together the folds of skin. The daughter of a seamstress mother, Nicola instinctively recognized the link between her father who sewed people and her mother who sewed clothing. Both practices informed her later work as a conceptual artist who creates visually evocative sculptures, installations and performance pieces.

A first film by Natalie Cristiani, Nicola Constantino: The Artefacta, is a gorgeously crafted exploration of the oeuvre and inner workings of one of Argentina’s most thought-provoking artists. More than a film about an artist, this is an expressive, painterly and beautifully cinematic look into the inner musings of an enigmatic and intellectual creative soul. The only voice heard is that of the artist whose poetic, thought-provoking narration becomes a work of art in itself.

A designer, builder and meticulous craftsperson, Nicola Costantino uses the materials of her life to create elaborate characters and theatrical settings that she, the artist and subject, inhabits and moves through. Her body serves as research subject, model and actor. Her memories provide material. The work is rigorous, political and intellectually engaging. It is also beautiful and melodramatic with a uniquely baroque style.

The extensive research undertaken before proceeding with a piece is evident in Costantino’s careful attention to detail. A meticulous craftsperson she sews and cuts and welds and uses industrial power tools. She learns embalming and mummification techniques in order to create pieces that reflect her opinions on meat and consumption in a series of spherical swine sculptures. Using fat lipo-suctioned from her own body she cooks up a batch of body-shaped soaps marketed with the slogan, TAKE A BATH WITH ME.

In 2013, Costantino’s work about Eva Perón was selected to represent Argentina at the prestigious Venice Biennial. Here, a bed of ice symbolized the thousands of tears that flowed like rivers through the streets of Buenos Aires, on the great leader’s death. A steel-welded dressmakers’ ‘Judy’ becomes the metaphor that blasts forth a political message. Costantino constructs a wardrobe, dons make-up and performs as Perón.

When Costantino decides to have a child, her pregnancy becomes a new piece. She builds a dummy of herself and brings the model to the hospital in yet another embodiment of her ‘life-as-art’.

A fascinating look into the world of a fascinating artist, Nicola Constantino: the Artefacta, is a beautifully crafted film exploring the philosophies, work and life of a thought-provoking artist who in every sense of the word ‘lives’ her art.

Hot Docs 2015 Screenings
Fri, May 1 6:00 PM
TIFF Bell Lightbox 4

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Acclaimed independent filmmaker Annette Mangaard has completed more than 16 films since 1984. Her work, which often merges the disciplines of art and cinema, has been shown on television, in galleries and at festivals and cinematheques around the world.

View all articles by Annette Mangaard »