Agnès Varda Forever
As part of an assignment from artist Harrell Fletcher for the Portland State University Art and Social Practice MFA Program, I commissioned Jennifer “JJ” Jones to continue her “Agnès Varda Forever” project. Her project began in the summer of 2020 after JJ and her son watched a marathon of movies directed by Agnès Varda during the Covid-19 stay-at-home order. As a result, they wanted more people to know about Varda. JJ acted on this desire in October by painting “AGNÈS VARDA FOREVER” in eight-inch high letters on the utility pole at the end of her block.
Around that time, I drove past this bold message and was delighted by its spirit, not realizing that it was JJ’s neighborhood or her handiwork. I was so excited about the sign and its striking letterforms that I emailed JJ about it later that night.
JJ replied to my email: “One night, when I couldn’t sleep, I went down to the corner of MY STREET and painted that pole!!!!! What is incredible is that YOU saw it! I thought about sending you a picture of it, but then thought that a better thing to do would be to someday go and paint it on something near your apartment, so you could accidentally stumble upon it! This is SO magical, that it worked out this way. My heart and my mind are blown!!!”
As part of the assignment from Harrell in April 2021, I received $100 to commission someone to do anything. I offered it to JJ and together we designed a poster with the “AGNÈS VARDA FOREVER” message and removable tabs listing movies directed by Varda and a short description of each movie.
JJ bought colored paper to print the poster and perforated the lower portion of the poster, making tab removal easier. Then she cut each tab by hand and anonymously hung over 500 of them on poles in Portland and beyond. JJ’s hope was that people would take a tab from the poster and use it as a reminder to find out more about Varda and then watch the film.
In May 2021, we celebrated Varda’s birthday by revealing our identities and the story behind the project and our collaboration during an interview with the Hollywood Theatre. A more in-depth interview was published in the Social Forms of Art Journal in early June 2021. Awareness and excitement about the project grew as it was named a “Best Idea” in Willamette Week’s “Best of Portland Portland” issue, featured in Oregon Public Broadcasting and Portland Monthly stories, and we were special guests on the I-5 Cinemabound podcast with Rob Patrick and Megan Hattie Stahl.
We commissioned artist Shelbie Loomis to make portraits of Varda which we used to create artist stamps with the Portland Stamp Company. Proceeds from the stamp sales will benefit POWGirls, which offers workshops in video production, cinematography, audio recording, set lighting, digital editing, and media literacy for girls and non-binary youth ages 15–19.
Inspired by our project, the Clinton Street Theater invited JJ and I to collaborate on a film festival inspired by the project which became the Agnès Varda Forever Festival, during which five of Varda’s films were screened. Each moviegoer received a program and festival-related souvenirs were available to buy, further extending the reach of the project’s message and magic.
During the festival, we were artists-in-residence at the Theater, creating Varda-inspired artwork in response to the theater and neighborhood people and places.
Would you like to hang a poster up in your neighborhood? If so, please feel free to download, print, cut the tabs, and post wherever you think one is needed! Please snap a photo of the scene where you hung it and post it to Instagram with the hashtag #agnesvardaforever.