Agnès Desfosses

Agnès Desfosses

Photographer, stage director and author

ACTA’s founder and artistic director from 1990 to 2014

Associated artist of ACTA Company since 2014

Born in Paris, Agnès Desfosses is a street theatre performer, co-directing the Compagnie Vague et Terre from 1980 to 1989, then taking over the artistic direction of the Compagnie ACTA – Agnès DESFOSSES in 1990.

She has established numerous collaborations with authors, composers and visual artists. In the conception of her creations, the photographic image is used in shows and exhibitions.

Her creations are most often linked to contemporary themes: difference: “Géant et minuscule” – the city “Le Colosse” – exile: “Exil, scènes d’intérieur”, “Venus d’ailleurs”, “Petit, grand exil / petit, grand déménagement”, “Comme le vent qui souffle” – early childhood “Ah! Vos rondeurs”, “Sous la table” and “reNaissances” – the environment: “La tête dans les mottes” – the world of work and the arts “L’appareil à nuages”, memory in the triptych “Souvenirs d’avenir” – and imagination and the gaze with “le Jardin des Chimères” “¡ Mira! Le pays des reflets”. In 2008 she created “Moi seul” and “En Corps” with Laurent Dupont.

One of her objectives is to establish contacts outside France. Thus her creations have been invited to tour in Germany, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Finland, Martinique… The Toilhaus Theater, wanting to open up to very young audiences, invited her to direct with the theatre’s artistic teams an Austrian version of “Sous la Table” and “Ah! Vos rondeurs… Hommage aux bébés et ceux qui les accompagnent si délicatement dans leur éveil”.

These European encounters were so rich that she created and has been the artistic director since 2003 of the “PREMIERES RENCONTRES”, a European biennial event in the Val d’Oise, for young children, art and live performance. Since 2010, this biennial event is co-directed with Laurent Dupont. The PREMIERES RENCONTRES work to promote knowledge of new works for very young spectators in the Val d’Oise department with three weeks of performances and two days of inter-professional forum for professionals in early childhood and culture on a European scale.

Originally, in order to become a partner city of the PREMIERES RENCONTRES, children’s and cultural professionals had to meet and work together. The aim was to learn about the innovative aspect of artistic creations dedicated to very young spectators and the support they require. Today, these training sessions are open to parents, politicians, etc., in order to foster dialogue on art and childhood with cultural and early childhood staff.

The 10th edition of the PREMIÈRES RENCONTRES will take place in spring 2022. Every two years, about 9000 spectators attend a hundred performances of French and foreign shows, hosted in 17 communes of the Val d’Oise.

Her photographic career has led to numerous exhibitions, some of which are in the form of theatrical tours combining photography, sound and visual arts:

On the theme of exile: “Visages d’aujourd’hui, paysages d’hier” – “Venues d’ailleurs”.
On the theme of childhood: “1/125th of a second” – “Jeux en images”. – “Masques-Main” – “Visages et corps en scène” for the event “Images coté cour” as part of the Enfantillages festival at the Théâtre Gérard Philippe in Saint-Denis and at the Forum in Blanc-Mesnil.
On the theme of memory: “Souvenirs d’Avenir”, a creation with a photographic and scenographic component – “Histoires de vie”, on the working class memory of the L.T.T. in Conflans-St-Honorine – “Cité Montillet, une seconde naissance” for the Forum du Blanc-Mesnil, on the memory of a housing estate under demolition/reconstruction, at the Rencontres Urbaines festival in 2000 at the Grande Halle de la Villette.
On the theme of reflections: “Le Jardin des Chimères” (scenographic exhibition) and & “¡ Mira! Le pays des reflets” (The land of reflections), which combines photographic images and theatre.

She was asked by the city of Villiers-le-bel to accompany an urban renewal project in the neighbourhood where the ACTA company is in residence. This project, combining theatre and photography, led in February 2007 to the scenographic exhibition “Petit, grand exil / petit, grand déménagement”. From this project came the new show created in November 2007 by Agnès Desfosses, “Comme le vent qui souffle”, a collaboration between the contemporary author Joëlle Rouland and Agnès Desfosses.

All these creations are the result of partnerships with cities or cultural and artistic structures. She leads numerous workshops on artistic practice and encourages encounters around her theatrical or photographic creations, as shown by her recent residencies and creations at the Toihaus in Austria and the Belém Cultural Centre in Portugal.

She has also written for the theatre: “Dia Luna, la mémoire empoisonnée”, one of the three texts that make up the show “Souvenirs d’avenir” and “Sous la table”, created in 1997 and published in German, “Unter den Tisch” by Verlag der Autoren in 1999.

She invited Laurent Dupont to create with her company in 2009. After directing “Moi Seul”, Laurent became associate artist and artistic co-director of the company and PREMIÈRES RENCONTRES.

In 2010, after the social revolts of 2007 and 2010 that took place in Villiers-le-Bel and the outskirts of Paris, she conceived and directed “Debout! It brings together some sixty people on stage: professional actors from the ACTA company, dancers from the DK-Bel company, choreographers Corinne Faure-Grise and Sophie Bulbulyan, and residents of Villiers-le-Bel and the Val d’Oise, and combines dance, theatre and photo projections. This artistic process is carried out in close artistic collaboration with Carole Thibaut, associate author. This show will be performed again in autumn 2012 at the Saint Germain auditorium, Maison des Pratiques artistiques et amateurs in Paris. After this creation she chose to focus on her photographic work and writing.

In 2012, she presented the scenographic exhibition “Enfances-Chercheurs d’Or”, a way of highlighting and dialoguing “Enfances” from several European countries: are our educations towards early childhood equivalent from one country to another? – Germany, Spain, Finland, France (Villiers-le-Bel and Fort de France in Martinique) -Hercheurs d’Or makes visible from early childhood the qualities of concentration, physical ability, daydreaming, curiosity and creativity, whether through their own games or through other forms of learning. Exhibition realised in the framework of a European project – Grundtvig educational partnership (August 2010 – July 2012) – “Parenthood / Education / Culture / Art” involving Martinique: the Directorate of Early Childhood Services of Fort de France, and the Flamboyant Theatre, Germany: Armestheater, Finland: Dance Theatre Auraco, and Spain: La Casa Incierta and coordinated by ACTA.
In 2015 Agnès Desfosses continues to document her project “Enfances Chercheurs d’Or” in Reunion Island, Japan and Brazil which is the subject of new exhibitions.

What about 2017? Agnès Desfosses’ work has followed one another in quick succession: many of the photographs she has taken have only been seen by the close circle of those photographed. Today, she wishes to share the images resulting from her numerous projects with a wider public. She is working on it!

In 2021, she decided to make a film, “Plus riche que moi, y’a pas!”, retracing thirty years of cultural, artistic and militant life in Villiers-le-Bel. She interviewed about twenty participants in the film and presented her own work, in order to enhance the collective memory of the suburbs.