Gender Equality and Sustainability: Agnès Varda’s Sustaining Legacy

March 28, 2020

Istanbul Bilgi University, Istanbul, Turkey

Virtual Varda

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Virtual Varda

Virtual Varda, our updated title, marks our nomadic online route due to Covid-19. Forever adaptable to change Agnès Varda would probably approve our move and find a way to turn it into a creative piece of art with humor. Certainly more sustainable, Virtual Varda overcomes the distances that separate us at the moment. We do hope to get together however, with all of our keynote speakers, participants and colleagues, for a celebration of our collective book next year in İstanbul.

With Virtual Varda İstanbul Bilgi University is launching a series of annual events dedicated to the intersecting themes of gender equality and sustainability under various academic disciplines. This year’s event will consider the framework of film studies.

The inspiration for this inaugural symposium comes from the tireless gleaner of images Agnès Varda, whose legacy of female subjectivity spans more than six decades, from her first film La Pointe Courte (1955) to her final documentary Varda par Agnès (2019). An opening event launching the series will be followed by a one-day symposium to mark the anniversary of Varda’s passing, taking place at İstanbul Bilgi University March 28, 2020.

In addition to her career-long interest in gender equality, sustainability has been a resonant theme in Varda’s work. This is particularly true of her recent documentaries and her foray into other visual arts at the turn of the century, a transition that coincides with her shift to digital media. The Gleaners and I (2000) considers the practice of gleaning as survival, as art, and as an approach to memory; further developing many of the themes in the film, Varda’s installation Patatutopia at the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003 moved her perspective from the big screen to the gallery space. From this period until her death, Varda’s work deals prominently with recycling, revisiting, and reframing objects as well as human experience. She has described her essay film The Beaches of Agnès (2008), for example, as “an Unidentified Flying Object,” or a collage assembled from pieces of her life as expressed through various media: photographs, found footage, artwork, and other objects. This same spirit of invention through collection and recollection infuses much of her life’s work, and reveals not only what Varda understood about gender and the world around her, but also why it is crucial to study these concepts through art.

Taking Varda as its focal point, this symposium aims to open many potential avenues of discussion on gender equality and sustainability, producing a timely intervention of wide interest to many scholarly fields and disciplines. The symposium will conclude with a roundtable contextualizing, highlighting, and framing these issues under the heading: Global Varda.

Keynote Speakers

Sandy Flitterman-Lewis

Rutgers University, Associate Professor of English and Film


Dr. Flitterman-Lewis is a pioneering scholar and teacher of feminist cinema whose book To Desire Differently (1990, 1996) is among the earliest studies of Varda published in English, and whose scholarship has since continued to advance Varda studies worldwide. She is also a founding co-editor of both the feminist film journal Camera Obscura and the cultural studies journal Discourse.


Homay King

Bryn Mawr College, Chair and Professor of History of Art

and the Eugenia Chase Guild Chair in the Humanities


Dr. King is the author of Virtual Memory (2019), a groundbreaking study of digitality in contemporary art and cinema that includes Varda’s installations and late documentaries. Her scholarship draws on history, philosophy, and critical theory, and she is a current member of the Camera Obscura editorial collective.

Organizing Committee

  • Prof. Feride Çiçekoğlu, İstanbul Bilgi University, Director, Master Program in Film andTelevision
  • Prof. Aslı Tunç, İstanbul Bilgi University, Director, Center for Higher Education Studies
  • Prof. Zuhal Ulusoy, İstanbul Bilgi University, Dean, Faculty of Architecture
  • Prof. Pınar Uyan, İstanbul Bilgi University, Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities
  • Asst. Prof. Colleen Kennedy-Karpat, İ. D. Bilkent University (Ankara), Department of Communication and Design
  • Tolga Yalur, PhD Candidate & Teaching Fellow, George Mason University, Cultural Studies


Symposium Program

March 28, 2020 Saturday

14.00 Hosting Virtual Varda

Feride Çiçekoğlu, İstanbul Bilgi University
Director of the Master Programs in Film and Television

“Gender equality and sustainability: Priorities of BiLGi”
Kübra Doğan Yenisey, İstanbul Bilgi University
Acting Rector
14.15 Panel A / Moderator: Zuhal Ulusoy, İstanbul Bilgi University
Dean, Faculty of Architecture
14.45 Panel B / Moderator: Pınar Uyan, İstanbul Bilgi University
Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities
15.30 “Global Varda”
Colleen Kennedy-Karpat, Bilkent University
Graduate Programs Director, Department of Communication and Design

Introducing the keynote speakers
15.45 Keynote speech
“Floating Roots: Agnès Varda’s Uncle Yanco (1967)”
Homay King, Bryn Mawr College, Director of Graduate Studies

Eugenia Chase Guild Chair in the Humanities, Department of History of Art
16.30 Keynote Speech
“Passion, Commitment, Compassion: Les Justes au Panthéon by Agnès Varda”
Sandy Flitterman-Lewis, Rutgers University
Department of English and Cinema Studies
17.15 Panel C / Moderator: Colleen Kennedy-Karpat
17.45 Round Table
18.00 End


Confirmed Attendees

Session Titles

Ersan Ocak | TED University, Architecture and Urban Studies Varda as an Image Gleaner Woman Filmmaker: Embracing Digital Video Panel A
Moderator: Zuhal Ulusoy
Kurt Ozment | Bilkent University, Cultures, Civilizations, and Ideas "Working for Delphine": images, words, gender equality, and sustainability in Agnès Varda's Documenteur
Ruken Doğu Erdede | Istanbul Bilgi University, Film and Television Varda and LeGuin in Dialogue: Narrator's Saddlebag Panel B
Moderator: Pınar Uyan
Joseph Horsey | The University of York, Theatre, Film, Television and Interactive Media Gleaning Metaphors from Reality in the Documentary Films of Agnès Varda
Negar Taymoorzadeh | New York University, Cinema Studies Under Agnès Varda's Eyes: Plaisir d'amour en Iran
Jennifer Stob | Texas State University, Art History, Art and Design The Architecture or the Landscape: Varda's Formalist Feminism Panel C
Moderator: Colleen Kennedy-Karpat
Zizi Li | UCLA, School of Theater, Film and Television Women Directors on the Edge of Hollywood: Agnès Varda/Shirley Clarke in and beyond Lions Loves (1969)

Conference Call

March 28, 2020
İstanbul, Turkey

Organized by: Istanbul Bilgi University, Faculty of Communication, Department of Film and Television

Location: Santralistanbul

Conference Theme: Gender Equality and Sustainability: Agnès Varda’s Sustaining Legacy

Confirmed Keynote Speakers:

  • Sandy Flitterman-Lewis Rutgers University, Associate Professor of English and Film
  • Homay King Bryn Mawr College, Chair and Professor of History of Art and the Eugenia Chase Guild Chair in the Humanities

Contact person: Mx. Burak Şungar


Please submit an abstract (max 300 words), 3-5 bibliographical sources, 3-5 keywords, and a short CV by December 1, 2019. The selected abstracts for the symposium will be announced by December 15, 2019.

Abstracts selected for presentation will be published online prior to the symposium. Full papers selected for publication will be announced after the symposium. The symposium language is English. All presentations must be delivered in English, in person by the selected participants. No virtual presentations will be considered, and no simultaneous translation will be provided.

The symposium invites papers that situate the work and legacy of Agnès Varda around the themes of gender equality and sustainability. Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • female agency in narration
  • recycling, revisiting, and reframing
  • on-screen / off-screen
  • the gaze, desire and intimacy
  • analog/digital and visceral
  • reality, virtuality and memory


  • Virtual Varda, the first virtual symposium of our university took place on March 28, Saturday (2.00-6.00PM GMT+3) as announced on our website. With 70-80 participants online, it was an interactive event with QA sessions.
  • The link for the opening speeches of the event:
  • The links for the keynote speeches of the event:
  • The papers presented at the symposium will be collected in a book Global Varda, with the lead editor Colleen Kennedy-Karpat. We hope to celebrate the publication of the book next year at Santralistanbul, with our keynotes, moderators, and panelists.
  • You may find below the introduction by Professor Feride Çiçekoğlu, director of the master programs in film and television and the opening speech of our acting rector Professor Kübra Doğan Yenisey.


Hi all, and welcome,

My name is Feride Çiçekoğlu, I am the director of the master programs in film and television at İstanbul Bilgi University, in İstanbul. 

We are hosting Virtual Varda as the first online international event of our university. It was originally planned as a symposium where we would all meet at Santralistanbul Campus. The original title is: Gender Equality and Sustainability: The Sustainable Legacy of Agnès Varda.

As you may read in detail on our website, İstanbul Bilgi University is launching a series of annual events dedicated to the intersecting themes of gender equality and sustainability under various academic disciplines. This year’s event will consider the framework of film studies.

  • You may scroll down the program on our website, to see the list of panels, the moderators and the speakers of each session. When you click on the name of each panelist, you may also see the abstract of that particular presentation. This is the updated online version.
  • Due to the current global conditions, our university had to pass to distance learning like most universities all over the world, and we adapted our symposium likewise. The silver lining was that the event became more inclusive. We received so many applications that we could not offer access to all. We wrote back to each and everyone with apologies. The proceedings will be available on our website and we hope to continue the interaction.
  • We’ll appreciate if you kindly keep your camera and microphone closed. For better connection for all us, only the speakers, the moderators and the panelists of each session may keep their cameras and microphones open. If you want to ask questions, kindly write on chat. The moderators will pass on your questions if the time at the end of each session allows.

Virtual Varda, our updated title, marks our nomadic online route due to the pandemic. Forever adaptable to change, Agnès Varda would probably approve our move and find a way to turn it into a creative piece of art with her exquisite humor.

Certainly more sustainable, Virtual Varda overcomes the distances that separate us at the moment. We do hope to get together however, with all of our keynote speakers, participants and colleagues, for a celebration of our collective book about this time next year in İstanbul. So make sure, all of you, to stay healthy, in body and mind, and let’s all meet next year at Santralistanbul.

Let me now introduce our acting rector, Kübra Doğan Yenisey, to welcome you all. She has been keen on fore fronting gender equality and sustainability among the priorities of BiLGi, and she has been extremely supportive of our proposal when we suggested starting this series with the sustainable legacy of Agnès Varda. So, it is with great pleasure that I invite her onscreen.

  • Opening Speech of Prof. Kübra Doğan Yenisey

Dear Distinguished Guests and Colleagues,

Thank you very much for joining us in today’s Symposium, Gender Equality and Sustainability: Agnes Varda’s Sustaining Legacy.

Although it is unfortunate that this Symposium is taking place at a time of a global health crisis, we are honored to host this event. And as you very well know, we had to change the format of the Symposium due to the pandemic. This should be a reminder for all, that sustainability is not just another fancy topic, but an issue of survival. The World was too slow to recognize this and now change is imposing itself.  

Gender equality and sustainability have always been key principles at Istanbul Bilgi University, both with regard to how we work and what we do. Now is the time to strengthen our efforts to bridge these two. And we consider this Symposium as a first step to do so.

One thing is clear: sustainable development cannot be achieved without a real commitment to gender equality. Unless women have full and equal participation in decision-making and policy development, communities cannot prosper. Our responsibility now, is to mainstream both sustainability and gender equality in all decision-making and policies. Unconventional should become conventional.

I want to thank the speakers in advance for their contribution; the Organization Committee and Professor Feride Çiçekoğlu for their time, effort and resilience to make this event possible.

Hoping to meet in healthy and beautiful days, I wish a very successful symposium.

Thanks Kübra hocam, and hope to see you on Campus in near future!

Now, just a short introduction before we pass on to the panels as to why we thought Agnès Varda is a suitable name, may be even an ideal name for starting the series.

Opening her first exhibition of photographs in 1954 in the courtyard of her home in Paris, and joining the premiere of her final film Varda par Agnès at Berlinale 2019, Varda’s professional life extends over 65 years. During all that time that she liked to call “her three lives as a photographer, a cinéaste and a visual artist”, she always had an authentic style, opening up to others and taking in others with intimacy, resilience and may be most importantly, with joy of life.

Agnès Varda founded Tamaris Films in 1954, for her first feature La Pointe Courte. Changing its name to Ciné-Tamaris in 1975 the company is still in operation. The colorful design of its website reflects the joyous life style of its founder. Daughter and colleague of Agnès, Rosalie runs the company with her brother Matthew, and she calls her mother’s legacy, “the joyous legacy”.

Especially in times like ours, and Agnès Varda certainly had more than her share of similar times, it is important to remember and to honor her legacy as joyous. She was able to turn every traumatic experience into a piece of art, which celebrated life, whether it was the holocaust or the loss of a loved one.

An example to the former is her 2007 installation Les Justes au Panthéon she created for the Ceremony of Dedication. One of our keynote speakers, Sandy Flitterman-Lewis will highlight this work. 

As for the latter, in the 2006 L’île et elle exhibition at Fondation Cartier, she not only humbly places herself among the fourteen widows of the island, honoring the memory of her life partner Jacques Demy, but she also presents a 3 minute humorous video animation of the grave of their family cat Zgougou.

 Also in the exhibition at Fondation Cartier is a work dedicated to Rosalie, depicting her on a beach. Beaches are important for Agnès Varda. Her autobiographical film of 2008 has the title The Beaches of Agnès and she has said in an interview:

 “If you opened me up you would find beaches.” How Rosalie continues her mother’s joyous legacy suggests that an alternative narration of history is possible. It is certainly what we need these days of reflection. Switching at least in our minds, from the official masculinist version of the history of wars, victories and defeats, to one of resilience, joy and intimacy, this has probably never been more crucial in the whole adventure of humanity. How we can do that in a colorful, elegant and delightful way? Referring to her mother’s “feminist anti-establishment legacy” Rosalie shows us that alternative way to build history.

 Agnès had filmed an eighteen-year old Rosalie in 1985, but the exhibition in 2006 marks the beginning of their real collaboration. Rosalie says that at the age of 20 she would never have imagined herself working for her mother at the age of 50.

 As colleagues, they laughed a lot and they had fun, she says. They were travelling for master classes all around the world, and in 2015, after a decade of working together, Rosalie suggested to Agnès that they film a master class. They tried but it did not work. Obviously having inherited the resilience of her mother, Rosalie did not give up. She introduced the street artist JR to her mum, since Agnès was also interested in street art. And that’s how they made the film Faces Places, putting Agnès Varda once again on the agenda. So they updated her whole career for a new generation of millenials.


Throughout the presentations today different aspects of her work will be fore fronted in terms of gender equality and sustainability. At the time we planned this event, we had in mind focusing on sustainability of resources as highlighted in Agnès Varda’s digital works, such as Gleaners and I, which she started shooting on the first day of the new century. 

Today, in addition to, and may be even more important than that, is sustaining ourselves, and our joy of life. Getting ready for this online meeting, making test sessions and checking each other over the globe definitely helped us to move on. So I would like to thank our keynote speakers and all my colleagues for being on board.

Please keep in touch and feel free to email me for questions or comments, or even just for a chat.

And now I invite with great pleasure, the moderator of our first panel, Zuhal Ulusoy, dean of the faculty of architecture at BiLGi.