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Photographic print (dimensions 4150 x 3100mm)

Agnès Varda has an uncanny ability to elicit trust in the people she meets; working with them as collaborators, rather than observing them as subjects. 5 Rêveurs - or 5 Dreamers - depicts five young men balanced on breakwater gates, looking out to sea. The photograph was taken on a visit to the Noirmoutier seaside, to celebrate completion of their high-school studies, a transitional moment in their lives. At Varda’s suggestion, the men agreed to pose for the photograph: as Varda says about her work, “chance has always been my best assistant”.

Though Varda doesn’t intend to conjure religious connotations, stylistically she references the story of the 5th Century Syrian saint Simeon Stylites, who lived for 39 years on top of a column, as part of a lifestyle of abstinence from sensual pleasures in the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment.

The sentiment of 5 Rêveurs is directly in opposition to this idea of abstinence and joylessness. Rather, the photograph is made in humour, the notion of play is present in the role of the impulsive photographer, as well as the sense of growth and hopeful embracing of the future by the dreamers: as Varda suggests, it is “the idea of the game, that of children who like to perch, to be taller, taller, to jump…”.

Agnes Varda 17

Agnès Varda, '5 rêveurs' (2012), installation shot from Liverpool Biennial 2018 at FACT. Photo: Jon Barraclough

Courtesy of the artist and Ciné Tamaris.

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