Agnès Varda (1928-2019)
by: Lauren Elkin , May 15, 2019
by: Lauren Elkin , May 15, 2019
With her punk monk hairdo, her multicoloured clothing, and her potato getup, Agnès Varda was inimitable, visionary, fearlessly original.
She loved cards, all kinds of cards, especially tarot cards, which are sometimes dealt upside down. If we inverse our image of the crazy grandma, we find a very, very serious woman, who was, above all, a photographer. The potato project is a portrait of passing time, as she told the Canadian poet Lisa Robertson, an image of ‘energy, surviving energy, in old potatoes that you can no longer eat’. She took pleasure in this project, in ‘looking very carefully at things existing, and seeing them grow’.
She had the gift of knitting together radically different subjects, or rather of following the thread (yarn) wherever it might lead, as in Visages Villages (2017) when she moves from the eyes that the artist JR glued to the side of containers, to his refusal to remove his sunglasses, to Godard, who kept his on as well, to the time Varda got him to take them off to act in the film-within-a-film in Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962). I understand now that she was guided by her eye more than her intellect. Even if towards the end of her life her sight had gone blurry, as she recounts in that same film, in scrutinising the world as she did, she perceived links where other people only saw a blur. She showed me that we have to let ourselves be guided by our way of seeing the world: this is what makes our work belong to us, and no one else.
She showed me so many things. How to flâner. How to browse at a flea market. How to mix different materials, different media. How to write in the first person: ‘to film, with one hand, my other hand’. That far from being a narcissistic act, it is an ethical duty, to emphasise our point of view, rather than pretending to some universal omniscience.
With her no longer here to help us see, blindness threatens. But she left us what we need to sharpen our vision. A body of work, like a pair of glasses.
WHO SUPPORTS US
The team of MAI supporters and contributors is always expanding. We’re honoured to have a specialist collective of editors, whose enthusiasm & talent gave birth to MAI.
However, to turn our MAI dream into reality, we also relied on assistance from high-quality experts in web design, development and photography. Here we’d like to acknowledge their hard work and commitment to the feminist cause. Our feminist ‘thank you’ goes to:
Dots+Circles – a digital agency determined to make a difference, who’ve designed and built our MAI website. Their continuous support became a digital catalyst to our idealistic project.
Guy Martin – an award-winning and widely published British photographer who’s kindly agreed to share his images with our readers
Chandler Jernigan – a talented young American photographer whose portraits hugely enriched the visuals of MAI website
Matt Gillespie – a gifted professional British photographer who with no hesitation gave us permission to use some of his work
Julia Carbonell – an emerging Spanish photographer whose sharp outlook at contemporary women grasped our feminist attention
Ana Pedreira – a self-taught Portuguese photographer whose imagery from women protests beams with feminist aura
And other photographers whose images have been reproduced here: Cezanne Ali, Les Anderson, Mike Wilson, Annie Spratt, Cristian Newman, Peter Hershey