Pay-Less Monument

  • Théodora Barat

  • 2018
    • France
  • 44 min
  • Colour
  • Bertrand Scalabre


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Thomas Edison’s laboratory, a for­mer military base, the premises of a ufology association… In these diffe­rent venues, orators extol the Ameri­can genius and spirit of conquest, with the consummate art of storytel­ling. But Pay-Less Monument tells its story as much in the interstices separating each sequence as in the sequences themselves. All of the places of memory and fantasy that we discover are, in some way, “dis­count” monuments, like the cheap gravestones referred to in the film title. All are located in New Jersey, an intrinsically peripheral state wedged between New York and Phi­ladelphia. Through the almost mythological stories they tell, its resi­dents seem to be trying to claim a place in national history: the history of scientific progress, historical events, life sciences (dinosaur bones have been found here), and even of the universe (a plaque explains that a jumbled heap of metal was formerly an antenna that found traces of the Big Bang). Faced with these dis­courses, minerals often serve as a leitmotif and impassive witness. Théodora Barat’s images repeatedly return to the moment when the inert bursts into light, be it Edison’s light bulbs, fluorescent minerals under ultraviolet light or nuclear bombs... Between humans’ biased discourse and a timeless mineral presence, a text by Robert Smithson forges links: surely, the semi-urban landscape of New Jersey, with its large bay-win­dowed buildings, displays crystalline qualities? 
–Olivia Cooper-Hadjian

Théodora Barat studied at Le Fresnoy and the École supérieure des beaux-arts in Nantes. She won the Audi Talents award in 2016. Her work has screened at La Friche la Belle de Mai (Marseille), Glassbox (Paris), La Fabrique (Toulouse), the Contemporary Art Centre (Vilnius, Lithuania), and LABoral (Gijón, Spain); and in a video programme at the Palais de Tokyo, Centre Pompidou, the Villa Médicis and many international festivals.