Galerie Nathalie Obadia is delighted to present A Cinema Shack : The greenhouse of Happiness, Agnès Varda’s third solo exhibition at the gallery. The artist has built a greenhouse with partitions and glass walls made of the (real) 35mm film reels from a print of Le Bonheur (Happiness), the movie she made in 1964. Inside, (fake) sunflowers are cultivated. The Greenhouse of Happiness is her most recent shack after the one showcased at the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain (Paris, 2006), the Lyon Biennale (2009) and the LACMA (Los Angeles, 2013), all made of composite prints of various films.
My nostalgia for 35mm cinema turned into a recycling whim... I build shacks with the waste reels of my movies. Tossed aside because no longer screened, they become shacks.
Before, film prints would arrive in projection booths in the form of 5 to 8 rounded metal boxes looking like 4cm-thick cakes. In each box, there would be a metal coil rolling up a 5 to 600-meter film reel: it was the motion picture movie with the soundtrack on the side. The booth projector had two lamps: one would cast the image and the other the sound. Now, movies are carried on digital files, both image and sound, weighing approximately 200gr when non-dematerialized. So loads of coils and film reels were discarded...
For my movies, as well as Jacques Demy’s, we found ourselves with loads of prints that movie theaters no longer wanted. I like collecting waste and recycling it.
It is the third shack I build. I imagine a specific shape for each of my movies. The movie Le Bonheur (Happiness) was the story of a happy couple, embodied by Jean-Claude Drouot, his wife and kids. They liked picnics. I shot it in Ile-de-France thinking about impressionist painters, with Mozart music for the soundtrack. The credits were shot next to a field of sunflowers, the flowers of summer and happiness.
This greenhouse, with its distinctive double-windows, is made of an entire print of the film, 2200 meters, allowing to cover the walls, doors and the roof. Visitors will be able to enter in the shack and look closer at the transparent images of the movie. 24 images of the sweet Claire Drouot make up one second of the movie and will cover a surface of 45cm. They will be surrounded by the whole duration of the movie and images of a lost time.
As for the reel metal boxes, they have become obsolete.
I like these boxes. I remember when we used to go to the mixing, we had to carry tons of them around (a hundred at least). When we threw them into the trunk, it was like a drum concert: boxes for images, boxes for live dialogues, boxes for music, for noise etc. Is it still nostalgia or recycling? A royal arch welcomes us into the gallery. It is made of these now empty boxes.
We enter in the realm of movies’ second life.
Agnès Varda, French artist, was born in 1928 in Brussels (Belgium). She lives and works in Paris.
Bachelor degree. Photography evening classes. Auditor at the Sorbonne and Ecole du Louvre. Photographer at the Festival d’Avignon, then at the T.N.P directed by Jean Vilar. Writes, directs and produces her first feature-length movie in 1954, La Pointe Courte. Cléo from 5 to 7 (1961) is widely acclaimed. Then short and feature-length movies, documentaries and fiction alternate. Among them : Happiness (1964, Silver Bear in Berlin), Vagabond (1985, Golden Lion in Venice), The Gleaners and I (2000), The Beaches of Agnès (César 2009), Faces Places co-directed with artist JR (2017, selected for the 2018 Oscars).
2003 PATATUTOPIA at the Venice Biennale. Solo shows, 2006 L’Ile Et Elle at the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain (Paris, France), 2009 La Mer... Etsetera at the Centre Régional d’Art Contemporain Languedoc-Roussillon (Sète, France), 2012 Y’A Pas Que La Mer at the Musée Paul Valéry (Sète, France), Plages Et Pages Chinoises at the Cafa Museum (Beijing, China), 2013 Agnes Varda In Californialand at the LACMA (Los Angeles, USA), 2015 Agnes Varda: Photographs Get Moving (potatoes and shells, too) at the Logan Center (Chicago, USA), 2016 Varda/Cuba at the Centre Pompidou (Paris, France), Patates & Compagnie at the Museum Van Elsene (Brussels, Belgium), 2017 VARDA CUBA at the National Museum of Fine Arts of Cuba (La Havana).
2015, “honorary Palme d’Or” at the Cannes Film Festival. 2017, “honorary Oscar” for her entire body of work.
The work of Agnès Varda is featured in many international collections: Centre d’Art of Chamarande (France), Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain (France), FRAC Alsace (France), MoMA (USA), CNAP (France), MAC/VAL (France), Musée Paul Valéry (France), CAFA Art Museum (China), Institut Culturel Bernard Magrez (France), LACMA (USA).