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The exclusive interview French movie maker Agnès Varda has given within inside the glass walls of the Cartier Foundation couldn’t be cut to 800 characters. It was upon the opening of the Foundation’s latest show, The Great Animal Orchestra, where Agnès has one of her works exhibited. The atmosphere was hectic, you will hear it in the recordings. It is still worth listening to this voice we’ve grown so familiar with. 

She’s installed Le Tombeau de Zgougou in the Foundation’s gardens. A video is screened inside a shed, featuring Agnès’ once beloved pet. Agnès Varda walks us through this remembering, talks about mourning and the significance of animal scientific research.


Agnès Varda, why is it important these days to love pets and remember them?

In this exhibition, it’s more about the study of animals, their noises, their sounds; we are dealing with ultra-specialized scientists. Have you seen the one who deals with plankton? This amazing Bernie who goes out all alone to capture sounds and take photographs?

It is very seldom that science, biology, acoustics have decided to look at animals. For most people, animals are of another race, they’re either mythical or domestic. It’s funny because compared to all these scientists, it looks like I made a gravestone for my cat. Have you been to the shed?

Yes.

I built the shed and put the cat’s gravestone there.

And I am very happy since it may be the less scientific, the less thought out piece. It may be the only thing to be completely simple and direct for people to look at.

Yesterday I saw a woman crying while she looked at it. And I know children who have also cried over it. And yet it’s very simple, so very simple.

Everyone has done it, has burried their pet animals in the garden. However, since I am a film maker and a video artist, I wanted to find a form. So we made this animation with shells and flowers, image after image, in an archaic way. And I think it goes well with the cat, a female. We can see pictures of the female cat, and that’s the video: here lies Zgougou.

The video in itself dates back to 2006, what made you want to work on it again?  

There was a pre-existing video indeed, but we wanted to make it permanent. I asked if we could build a shed in the garden. Of course we couldn’t use a tool shed so I made it myself –obviously not alone. I created this sort of rustic shed. It sits well in there; don’t you think?

Very well.

Then I asked the gardener to plant a choisya. I also asked for the other plants. I was happy to create a corner where people may or may not go. It’s very well made because it’s totally rustic, with the appropriate waterproofness and airing to screen a film.

There is this great guy called Gérard Chéroux who took charge of the entire technique so that it’s a lot of work but it doesn’t show. I am very happy for him.

It is true. It’s particularly compelling, stepping into this small shed… I first saw it empty.

It’s better now. You came a long time ago?

I did come a long time ago while it was still empty.

You should go back. We’ve improved the video.

I went back today.

Ha! And the video looks good, right?

Very good.

I am very happy.

And there are these different phases. Do they symbolize the phases of mourning?  

It’s mostly the distance one takes. From things, from the dead.

Do you have pets still?

Three cats: two females and a male. But I didn’t want to come with them, although I have been offered to. They have a small garden, where I live, in the neighborhood.  I have a courtyard full of trees and the cats are happy there.

Do you feel that the work Bernie Krause has been doing for so many years, while joining the work of others, will manage to make a difference?

I believe the matter is first a scientific one, primarily for those who spend their life trying to understand life. People’s lives, wild life, sounds. This obsession with sounds is amazing.

But I think that it pushes people’s curiosity one step further. It compels the public to go beyond what’s commonly said about nature. I feel that in this case science opens our eyes wider.

Thank you very much, Agnès Varda.

Sound and illustration © Araso