Born in 1971 in Vichy ()
Lives and works in Paris (France ) and in Paris (France )
Liste expositions


Born in 1971 in Vichy, France, Laetitia Bénat graduated from the École des Beaux-Arts in Lyons in 1998.  Quite early on, she began publishing her photos in the press and showing her first videos, beginning with the 1996 exhibition “Instants donnés” at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. She defines herself as a photographer and video artist.

 Her photography gained rapid recognition when she began working with the press, notably Purple Magazine and its spin-offs (Purple Fashion, Purple Sex, etc.). Initially assuming the role of photographer, she went on to become an editor fully involved in the conception of the magazine. Her photo series, with their potential narratives and elliptical framing, are like the images of a film waiting for a director. Those looking at them could then imagine their own stories. Through her photographic work, Bénat also made her entry into advertising, notably with campaigns for Helmut Lang and Martin Margiela.

Since 1996, she has been making videos which feature her friends staged in intimate settings. In 1997/1998, she made Royal Garden, the 33-minute video which brought her to the attention of the art world. This work is a skilful montage revealing the origins of Bénat's universe. It marks the first appearance of a disenchanted female world in search of purity. Composed of shots of young women on the borderline between the end of adolescence and the beginning of adulthood, it is intercut with memories of teen-age songs, bits of conversations, images of the aftermath of a party and moments of solitude. Caught between two worlds, these young women are rendered hypersexual by their clothing at the same time that they are made fragile by the wait for a change.

 In 2000, Bénat entreed the graduate programme at the École des Beaux-Arts in Marseilles. The same year, she showed her video Nearby in “Elysian Fields,” an exhibition organised by the Purple Institute at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

 In her works, the artist presents fragments of inner worlds, like windows on intimate landscapes. Through a very simple use of video techniques -- still shots or close-ups of details -- she manages to express a state of fleeting melancholy tinged with anxiety and fear of the inner void. The soundtrack takes on particular importance through the frequent use of pop standards or electronic music.

In 2001, Bénat collaborated with Brazilian artist Tatiana Grinberg to make Scénario, a series of photos shot in Brazil. Mixing the fiction and reality of the trip, the work juxtaposes an insider's view of Brazilian culture (that of Grinberg) and an outsider's view (that of Bénat).

 Bénat draws most of her subjects from self-fiction: she feeds on the life around her, whether her own or that of the friends whom she features in her videos and photos. The use of this approach reflects the intimist trend which emerged in the 1990s with, for example, the videos of Sadie Benning or Rebecca Bournigault. Like these two video artists, Bénat takes her inspiration from a resolutely female world: her half-teenager, half-women heroines with their awakening bodies, sometimes still in their childhood bedrooms, reveal to the camera their fear of facing adulthood and their desire to hold on to carefree moments. In Black Sanna (2002), a black-and-white video, Bénat stages a fake witches' sabbath, which quickly becomes a game among teenagers trying to scare each other in the dark. Nature is another source of inspiration for the artist, with its changes serving as a metaphor for the variable state of our moods and the underlying violence.

Bénat's work on the sound of her videos led her to create sound pieces as well. Tahl (2002), produced in the context of the Audio Lab project and presented the following year at the Centre Pompidou, mixes ambient sound and music cuts (such as a song by Smog, an American folk group). The sound comes and goes, mixing with the noises of the everyday to evoke the poetry of a simple domestic scene.

In 2003, Bénat exhibited a series of drawings in her “Condensations” show at the Cosmic Galerie in Paris. This new facet of her work adds a complementary dimension to her artistic practice. “Each medium offers me a different way of expressing the same preoccupations,” she explains. “Photography lets me show how I see something. Video has to do with feeling: it plays on space, sound, duration. As for drawing, it might be my way of speaking.”(1)


Laetitia Rouiller

1. Interview with Anaïd Demer, Le Journal des Arts, 29 August-11 September 2003.