Nicola Costantino and Gabriel Valansi – Aguirre, La Ira de Dios

No. 44 / Year 4 – Buenos Aires, November 2007

Nicola Costantino and Gabriel Valansi have just opened an art space managed by themselves, called nothing less than Aguirre, la ira de Dios (Aguirre, the wrath of God), in Aguirre and Juan B. Justo streets. Laura Batkis was there and was able to interview them. Photos by Alejandro Lipszyk.

In addition to sharing this project, Nicola Costantino and Gabriel Valansi have formed a work team with which Nicola has just won the Grand Prize at the National Salon for her photography Autorretrato (Self-portrait). 

What is “Aguirre la ira de Dios”?

Nicola: It was a project of mine. Two years ago I was looking for a place to live and it seemed to me that buying a building block, transforming it and subdividing it was economically convenient. We artists need large spaces. So I found a building that was an abandoned factory, a four-story carpentry shop. I put my savings into the fund and started looking for partners. I wanted people related to art. The first ones to enter this project were Sebastiano Mauri, Laura Buccellato and Cecilia Remiro. We were the first four who bought the building. And we started building following a project by Horacio Torcello. We put the first floor up for sale, then we made a shop-like project for the front. And a loft with a garden for the back. Gabriel Valansi bought the back part where he has his photolography studio.

How did the idea of setting up an art space at the front come about?

Gabriel: The person who bought that part gave me the possibility of making a self-managed project to exhibit the work of young artists.

You somehow formed a team of artists…

N: Yes, we work as a team. Florencia Rodriguez Giles, a young artist with whom I have shared a studio for many years, also lives in this building and she does much of the Photoshop in our artworks. We are a team that complements each other.

G: There is Pablo Caligaris who is a photographer and designer, and the photographers: Santiago Porter, Daniel Nieves and Sebastian Ingrattia. Also VVV, a gallery specially dedicated to photography and video.

Nicola, you have just won the Grand Prix d’Honneur at the National Salon with a photograph. Last year you won the first Petrobrás prize in Buenos Aires Photo. Whose work is it? Who signed the work?

N: I am usually inclined to sculpture. But now, being with Gabriel, with his influence and learning a lot of things, I wanted to start working with photography. Gabriel not only takes the photos, but he is like a coach who gives me a lot of assurance.

Do you think you are directing her?  

G: I feel like that it is Nicola’s work, that’s why she signs it. It has to do with her iconography, her topics, her world and her universe. I can’t say that this is my work because it’s not. I bring in the profession, the camera and the lights. I help her think about her ideas, yes, I direct the work from my place as a photographer, as if tomorrow I wanted to make an object where she is really the one who understands the materiality of things. I am currently working on projects where she assists me.

The artwork is by Nicola.

G: Yes, Nicola could have hired anyone to “click” on the camera. And in fact it’s a common practice in contemporary art: Sophie Calle never took a photo and is considered an artist who uses photography, like Cindy Sherman and so many others.

What you do involves some art direction.

G: Clearly the authorship is Nicola’s. Personally, it’s not a universe I have; I admire it, respect it, and help her capture it in the best way possible. But it belongs to her since many years ago. She’s been capturing things that she’s been doing for fifteen years somewhere.

The artwork with which you won the prize is a self-portrait with a Chancho Bola (Pig ball) in your hand. In that limit between beauty and agony from your work, but in this case the theme is motherhood. 

N: It’s a sort of image of motherhood and religion. The face reminds you of the Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo Da Vinci. There are historical references to Renaissance artworks. My choice is to nod to the classical, rather than the contemporary. That thing of beauty but terrible, that baby all cut up and cooked.

Do you have the feeling that some of your artworks have something to do with pregnancy?

N: Yes, in some works it has to do with gestation. With what was not born or what is about to be born. What is about to come out. Everything that has to do with gestation and motherhood.

The gestation of this new space that is Aguirre, has just been released.  

G: By appointment, by phone, it’s not open to the public, for economic reasons, because we can’t have a full time secretary. Our website is:  

Now there is a photography exhibition. 

G: Yes, because photography – paradoxically – is going through a decisive moment. For many theorists, what is called the “death of photography” already exists. This death of the medium has to do, among other things, with the irruption of new technologies. I think it is interesting to be able to uphold a place where this transit of photography towards other possible and new ways of generating meaning is discussed through artworks.

Nicola, there has been a lot of talk about the death of art, but you are taking refuge in classical art. 

N: I believe that an artist cannot think about the death of what he is dedicating himself to. I am now feeding back into my own work. Like the subject of food, I only change the medium.

Aguirre, la ira de Dios, does not seem to be, or is not, a traditional art gallery. 

N: No, and the idea is for there to be more options, more places where good artworks can be seen and we are interested in inviting people to exhibit pieces that we are interested in and that we consider good. To invite people, curators, critics. To generate a living space.

G: Space is not born with a commercial expectation. The commercial factor in a gallery is often a determining factor in the work of art. That’s why we prefer to keep the space only as a place for exhibition and experimentation. If someone would like to acquire a work that is exhibited in this space, we put them in contact with the artist. 

N: Nothing is limited, on the contrary, we are open to proposals that may arise. I would like La ira de Dios to have a place at a fair, but to be in some non-profit space managed by artists. In other places, things similar to what we are doing are happening. For example, Oscar Muñoz has a space called Lugar a dudas. In Rio de Janeiro, Ernesto Neto has the space La Carioca.