Noémie Goudal in En Revenant de l'Expo

Noémie Goudal – Phoenix at the 2022 Arles Meetings

Noémie Goudal - Phoenix VI and II, 2021; Below The Deep South, 2021 - Phoenix at the 2022 Rencontres d'Arles

Until next August 28, Noémie Goudal presents Phoenix, a spectacular installation in the chapel of the Trinitarians in Arles. Hailed by the critics, this proposal is undoubtedly one of the most successful of this edition of the Rencontres d'Arles .

Invited to  La Grande Table d'été  " on France Culture , Noémie Goudal presented the work she is exhibiting in Arles, and, with the director Maëlle Poésy, the show Anima played at the Collection Lambert, as part of the Festival from Avignon. During this program, she summed up the nature of her artistic approach as follows:

The idea is to use the landscape not by “where it is exactly”, but by what it evokes. The first question we ask when we see a photograph is “Where is it?” and “When is it?”. I try not to answer these questions, but rather to offer spaces where everyone brings their baggage, their own culture, their own travels and allows them to bring their own interpretation of "What does it mean to me a palm grove? (…) The landscape is a way for me to talk about the movements of landscapes in a universal way. And precisely not by a specific place. That's why the subject of paleoclimatology is fascinating because these are landscape metamorphoses that are on enormous scales, on the scale of the planet where the borders, the continents that we currently know no longer exist ".

In her presentation for the Rencontres d'Arles , Noémie Goudal explains how the "  Phoenix  " exhibition stems from her research into paleoclimatology (the study of past climates) and the idea of ​​"deep time" (the history geology of the planet).

With a remarkable scenography signed by Hélène Jourdan and the complicity of Alona Pardo who is in charge of the curating, Noémie Goudal masterfully occupies the volume of the chapel of the Trinitarians which has often proved to be particularly complicated.

In the dark, the space is divided into several modules by ingenious and elegant metal mesh partitions.

In the first part of the nave, on these openwork rails, hang five imposing prints from the “  Phoenix  ” series which gives its title to the exhibition. These images of palm groves photographed under white and artificial light are fragmented and recomposed.

They place visitors in a situation of confusion and discomfort. They force the gaze to circulate in these dislocated “landscapes”. Without providing an answer, they ask us about what we see or what we think we see…

What do these strata refer us to? To the history of these landscapes? To our own history? To that of the “Deep Time” of paleoclimatologists? Are they hiding a future of the Anthropocene? On this last point, Noémie Goudal suggests that her work is interested in phenomena that go well beyond the period when the large-scale impact of human activity on the biosphere is proven...

On the left wall, a photo-video installation ( Untitled (Roches) , 2022) blurs the lines a little more… What does this projection mean? What is it made out of: a paper screen? A photograph ? It is difficult to see what the projector broadcasts, which is very visible. Is it a video or just a light beam?

Opposite, a light installation is also quite enigmatic. Neon letters alternately display the words INHALE and EXHALE…


Noémie Goudal 's intentions become more evident with the two films screened in the second part of the nave and in the choir of the chapel of the Trinitarians, united by the same platform.

After this marshy inspiration, the elements of the trompe-l'oeil descend in a slow exhalation towards their malarial origins... In the background, birdsong mingles with telluric rumblings.

In an eight-minute sequence shot ( Inhale, Exhale , 2021), imposing photographs of lush vegetation, where you can recognize palm and banana trees, slowly emerge from stagnant water in a forest. Nothing is hidden from the system of ropes and pulleys with which a theater set is set up which gradually replaces reality in a disturbing optical illusion.


In a text that accompanied the presentation of this installation, at the end of 2021, at the Grand Café – contemporary art center of Saint-Nazaire, the critic Éva Prouteau wrote:

" Here, the artist subtly references the history of geology, when the German climatologist Alfred Wegener formulated his theory of continental drift in 1912. Long after his death, the mechanisms of plate tectonics became evident to the scientific community, just like the visual interlocking of Africa and Latin America, the ocean ridge or the presence of certain plant species or minerals on either side of the Atlantic. As such, the palm tree or the banana tree appear recurrently in the work of Noémie Goudal: they are markers of movement, erected on both sides of the bank, witnesses to the history of this dislocated, torn landscape. This notion, dizzying for Man, which induces to think of a territory in perpetual motion, took a long time to take into consideration: ".

Opposite, Below The Deep South (2021) shows the slow and fascinating destruction by fire of the setting of a primary jungle...

Exhibited at Loop Barcelona 2021 , this work was thus described by the Galerie Les filles du calvaire, which represents the artist  :

“  The video shows a green jungle, several photographs arranged in successive backgrounds, playing with scales and depth and causing an optical illusion. Little by little, a fire destroys and disintegrates the decor, forming a new landscape every second. A discrepancy is thus produced between the decor, resulting from human production which is decomposing, and the hallucinatory vision of the wild landscape of a primary jungle.
"Below The Deep South" is inspired by recent discoveries that have been made in Antarctica. Thanks to a deep drilling, a scientific team was able to find a pollen fossil and the existence of a coal deposit. This discovery introduces the enigma of an immense forest, potentially tropical, located on this territory. The artist questions here the perpetual movements of our current landscape and in particular the evolution and transformation of a space which, for millions of years, has oscillated between ice and the tropics  ”.

Beyond the disturbing beauty of Noémie Goudal 's images and their setting in millimetric space, we do not come out of this exhibition completely unscathed.

With "  Phoenix  ", Noémie Goudal obviously invokes the metaphor of fire as a principle of death and rebirth. In her text, Éva Prouteau recalled: “  the date palm was called Phoenix dactylifera by the botanist Linné in 1734, perhaps because the ancient Greeks considered it the tree of the Phoenicians (Phoinix); perhaps because the palm has the ability to survive after being partially burned, like the bird rising from its ashes  ”…

For Noémie Goudal , it is essential not to hide anything and to show the artisanal and collaborative nature of her work, unlike the icy aesthetics of retouching and digital editing software. She therefore wished to accompany her exhibition with this Making-of of her installations accessible from a QR code.

As part of the Avignon Festival, Noémie Goudal and Maëlle Poésy presented the show Anima at the Collection Lambert . This performance, qualified as a “plastic experience”, very much echoed the Arles exhibition. It was performed by Chloé Moglia , author of its suspension, with original music composed and performed by Chloé Thévenin (aka Chloé DJ) and scenography by Hélène Jourdan .

31 July 2022
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