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Agnès Varda at the Palais idéal


In Hauterives in the Drôme, on the site of the Palais idéal of Postman Cheval, an exhibition celebrates the photographic and art work of filmmaker Agnès Varda around human constructions. then the links between the two artists resonate very strongly.

There is something obvious when we look at the work of Agnès Varda and that of Postman Cheval pell-mell. If the first is multiple, full of ethereal images and delicate attentions born of many trips while the second is circumscribed to a certain scope of work and particularly tangible, both proceed from the same force of having wanted to follow a Dream. in their life as an artist and to exert it with the belief in a common imagination.

“The example of Postman Cheval’s perseverance with the palace that he took thirty-three years to build on his own and without having studied architecture is finally close to the moment when, at twenty-five, Completely self-taught too, Agnès Varda directed her first film “La Pointe courte” in the port of Sète “, underlines the co-curator of the exhibition, Julia Fabry, who was for a long time the collaborator of Agnès Varda.

The human will which triumphs in these two artistic works is corroborated by the taste they both have for naive, often fanciful and sometimes grotesque figures, who emanate from a carnival world who sing the brotherhood of living beings in a great gathering beyond ages, of all appearances and all social ranks. This is what we can see in a film directed by Julia Fabry for the occasion and which is made up of many shots of Agnès Varda films where we follow the filmmaker in search of works of art brut that fascinated her so much. She and Julia Fabry came together twice at the Ideal Palace, which was a major source of inspiration for the director of Cléo de 5 à 7.


A photo that she took during one of her visits is also presented, as well as other jewels from her relatively unknown photographic works, which was however her first artistic practice and which never really left her.  Where marvelous architectures stand, such as this devastated church in Italy, this succession of rooms in a palace in Portugal or this destroyed building in Avignon.

The pleasure of contemplating human constructions hidden away is like a common thread that reveals Agnès Varda’s love for the vulnerable nature of our imprint in the world. Hence, quite rightly, the presence of photographs taken in Sète in the 1950s, the place of her adolescence, and in particular these images of tents and fishermen’s huts on the city beach, like beautiful remains of nomadic time and which open up a thousand and one wonderful scenarios for the imagination.

Infinite palace

But the correspondence with Facteur Cheval does not end there. It is even more evident with one of the last works in Agnès Varda’s life, her “cinema huts”, a kind of totemic constructions to give other echoes to her films.

If some exist in full size, here the “models” are presented to the public. About 70 centimeters long and 50 centimeters wide, they carry all the very small films of a Super 8 camera which itself filmed the films depicted on the model. Clearly, if we pay attention to the details, through the thin film we can see moments from real Agnès Varda films, which gives a feeling of fragility to these small constructions and an incredible depth to the gaze.

At the end of the exhibition, the short film Les dites caryatides “, which she directed in 1984, speaks volumes of her love for architectural decors that speak in silence. So she paint the picture of these great ladies who originally came from Karyes in the Peloponnese in Greece and were defeated in turn by the Spartans and the Visigoths who made them slaves. To their dignity found again in the streets of Paris where the architecture of the end of the 19th century particularly celebrated them on the facades of buildings, Agnès Varda superimposes the bitterness of the poet Charles Baudelaire, silent and as if in exile at the end of his life, but who too, like the Postman Cheval and the filmmaker, so often dreamed of an elsewhere:

“Babel of stairs and arcades,

It was an infinite palace,

Full of pools and waterfalls

Falling in matt or burnished gold; ”

Jean-Baptiste Gauvin


Agnes Varda

Architextures and perspectives

from October 15, 2021 to April 3, 2022

Palais idéal du Facteur Cheval

8 Rue du Palais, 26390 Hauterives

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