Noémie Goudal in British Journal of Photography

'Noémie Goudal’s latest exhibition explores the history of earth’s climate' by Marigold Warner

25 January 2022 Opening this Friday at London’s Edel Assanti gallery, Post Atlantica spans installation, film, and photography, traversing into the depths of forests, swamplands and mountains.


Paleoclimatology refers to the study of the history of the climate. Scientists can examine chemicals buried deep beneath layers of sediment, preserved in tree rings, or sealed in ice sheets, glaciers and microfossils. The deeper you go into the landscape, the further one can trace back time: some scientists have reconstructed ancient climates dating back millions of years.


This scientific field is the subject of Noémie Goudal’s long-term project, Post Atlantica, currently on show at London’s Edel AssantiIt is the inaugural show at the gallery’s new space in Fitzrovia. The titlerefers to the name of an ancient continent that existed 2,000 million years ago, before it split into what we now know as Africa and North America. “[It] refers to the idea of what comes after. It’s all about seeing the landscape as a moving entity… We see it as very fixed and very stable, but actually, it’s moving all the time,” she says.


 Noémie Goudal, Phoenix IV, 2021, C-Print, 148.5 x 111 cm | 58 1/2 x 43 3/4 in.

The Paris-based artist became interested in paleoclimatology around three years ago, and has been researching it since. “It’s fascinating that we can still see traces of our past in the landscape,” says Goudal. “[Paleoclimatology is] a vertiginous oscillation between the past, the present and the future, because it’s by looking at the past that we can learn about the future.” 


The project spans installation, film, and photography that traverses contrasting landscapes – from tropical rainforests and coastlines, to swamplands and snow-capped mountains. 


Goudal is interested in dissecting the “layers within an image”, a perspective she developed during her studies at RCA. She was encouraged to consider “the image as a composition”, prompting her to “build” a photograph, rather than capturing a pre-existing scene. 


In Post Atlantica, all of the images were created entirely within the landscape. She works on-site, creating large photographic prints and embedding them back into the scene to photograph. In doing so, Goudal is attempting to “make a parallel between the geological layers and the layers inside an image”. And, in many ways, the process of construction is more important than the final outcome; photography is merely a vehicle to communicate that process. 


Goudal recognises that it is difficult to explore the relationship between humans and nature without addressing the climate crisis. “This is our main concern at the moment… But I’m more interested in looking at the landscape with a broader understanding,” she says. 


After all, paleoclimatology places humankind within the history of our climate. If Earth was one year old, human evolution would take place in the last 23 minutes. Thus, rather than asking questions about how we can lower emissions or change our lifestyle, Goudal is more interested in thinking about how we can reconcile our relationship with nature, and re-define our place on Earth as its temporary guardians. 

25 January 2022
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