Agnès Varda's 2007 installation Les Justes au Panthéon (The Righteous at the Pantheon, France) honored the many French “Righteous” who saved Jewish children during World War II in a ceremony commemorating their heroic actions with the placement of a plaque in the crypt. For a while this installation held a minor place in Varda's oeuvre, until she gave it a featured position in her autobiographical film The Beaches of Agnès (Les plages d'Agnès, France, 2008). Filmed vignettes of rescue, projected in four loops in the great hall, allowed Varda to display her characteristic blend of documentary and fiction and to navigate the intimately personal with the historical scope of the time. The resulting impression of “empathetic reciprocity” signals a core belief of Varda's in that the artwork (or film, or installation) is an occasion for conversation, for sharing and learning. The ceremony brought together three women of conscience, all dedicated to the power of memory and its ability to bind humanity in a common purpose. Simone Veil and Marceline Loridan-Ivens were both survivors of Auschwitz, while Varda, their exact contemporary, commemorated their experience with her installation. Through sorrow and loss, something affirmative obtains: a Vardian perspective in an unexpected place, a celebration of the most minute expressions of compassion, and a belief in human connection that has traversed the six decades of Varda's work across media and time.

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