The acrobat Chloé Moglia in “Anima”, an installation-performance designed by Maëlle Poésy and Noémie Goudal at the Festival d'Avignon 2022. © Vincent Arbelet
RFI : Your show is disturbing. Before the incredulous eyes of the spectators, images and realities, our visions of time and space, and our certainties are broken down and recomposed. What “ anima ” are we talking about ?
Maëlle Poésy : We are talking about the soul, the animation of the living and everything that breathes. As we talk about the geography of our planet and the "deep time", the time of the Earth, for us, it was important to also talk about its intrinsic life. For this it is called Anima .
You are a plastic photographer. A large part of your creation consists of a triptych in permanent metamorphosis, composed of three large screens of 5 meters by 5 meters. Images projected on screens, is that theatre ? A kind of theater of images ?
Noémie Goudal : For me, the three screens are mainly there to create an immersive form. In the theatre, we have a sensation of an audience-stage. There, the public was invited inside this device. It's not quite theatre. The idea of this performance is to mix theatre, video and photography and try to create a completely hybrid form which is neither really one nor the other.
Does water-soluble paper, which you use spectacularly, play a role in this device ?
Noémie Goudal : Yes, he becomes an actor. It becomes animated. It is a paper that is extremely precious to me, because it allowed me in my work as a visual artist to move from still photography to moving photography. By adding just a drop of water, we have a decomposition that is quite direct and magical.
From what need, from what urgency was this creation born ?
Maëlle Poésy : From the very strong desire to work from scientific research on which Noémie works in photography. Because the question of time, of "deep time", the time of the Earth, will eventually meet our human time. Both of us really wanted to work on the question of metamorphosis. By trying to have a poetic and sensitive perception of the past, we also wanted to ask a poetic and sensitive question of our future.
You are passionate about paleoclimatology and “ deep time ”. In this show, is it also about highlighting our " superficiality " as human beings fighting against global warming ?
Noemie Goudal : In any case, it's to put us back in our place, to send us back to our extremely short existence in a world that has an extremely long history. This is where paleoclimatology is an extremely dizzying science. It is perhaps a little too complex for the human brain to really realize that we live on a world where we can touch rocks that are much older than us. It's a dizzying exercise for all of us. I spoke to a young scientist who is studying water droplets encapsulated in rock in Brittany that date back 300 million years. And she explained to me that, at that time, Brittany was, at the equator, glued to Texas. We find inside these rocks an extremely long history. This is where my interest in paleoclimatology comes from,
Your definition of this show is “installation performance”. You could also say it's a play without a single word spoken. Is this your ideal theatre, a theater without words ?
Maëlle Poésy : For me, it's not a play, it's a performance installation. With Noémie, we were looking for something that could show this hybridity. So, for me, it was very important that people didn't expect a show like you can sometimes expect in Avignon, with actors who enter the set to tell a story. It's another form of storytelling that will be supported. Suddenly, he had to give a name so that we do not distort the expectations of the public.
The two of you still manage to upset the established order of our existence, to disturb our usual perception of things, to astonish us when the so-called real palm tree turns out to be an image on photo paper. What we look at is not what we look at in the end, there is a reversal of roles, a sort of revolution in our vision.
Noémie Goudal : Yes, and it's also about returning to a form of craftsmanship, of construction. It is a performance made by man, by the hand of man. And we wanted to have that texture. These are fixed shots, sequence shots, with a camera that is fixed and all the elements that move in front of the camera. There is an element of fragility that operates. There are things that happen and don't quite go the way we wanted. It is precisely that, strength too. The construction, all these bits of paper that we see, was also a way of showing this fragility and involving the spectator a little more in the construction and the metamorphosis. It's not 3D or studio-made videos. Everything was done by hand. For us, it was extremely important.
Maëlle Poésy : Our camera was fixed, on the sequence shots we really see the set, layers of sets, one behind the other, which evolve, destroy each other, rebuild themselves. So, there is a chance of the temporality due to the shooting. This chance of time collides with what we offer in terms of craftsmanship.
The performance aspect comes into play with the acrobat Chloé Moglia. For very long minutes, it hangs on one hand, somewhere, 4 meters high, creating unsuspected movements, extremely slowed down. It gives substance to time and space on a human scale. Is it a kind of " Moonwalk " in geological time?
Maëlle Poésy : For Noémie and me, Chloé Moglia, the woman suspended in the air, meant being able to have someone who embodied our present time in this metamorphosis of the past and this metamorphosis to come. Its particularity: when you look at it, you breathe at the same time as it. We are "suspended" with it in time. For us, it was very strong that she could embody this strength and this fragility in space.
You confront the spectators in a very intense way with geological time, with the breaths of “ deep time ”. Is it an anti-anthropocentric show, where man no longer finds himself at the center ?
Noémie Goudal : Exactly, it's about “deanthropocentering”… Obviously, it's a show made by man, he's the one who thinks and is behind it all. But the idea is to have a vision: to try to rethink the world, precisely without putting man at the centre. It is an extremely difficult exercise. It's like looking down on your life – from birth to now – from above. As if we were a spectator from above. The idea is to try to understand, to put back in your head a temporality that would not necessarily include our time.
Your performance installation shows an impressive capacity to make the public react. At the very beginning, when on the big screens only the jungle appeared accompanied by the cries of wild animals, this image provoked an exclamation from a spectator : " Daktari !" [ American series from the 1960s on a veterinarian installed in Africa who protects the local fauna against poachers, Editor's note ]. Very quickly, the images become more and more catchy, captivating, destabilizing, to the point of feeling in the public a real pleasure of destruction by fire. Do you feel like you've created a new form of artistic expression ?
Maëlle Poésy : Yes, that's for sure. We really worked on the question of temporality in paleoclimatology. The challenge was to temporalize it in the representation. Hence the sequence shot in which we enter and let ourselves be carried away. Sound, created by Chloé Thévenin, is still a stratum of possible time, and the temporality of music is not the same. It creates this complexity of listening to the moment of fire and these waves of sensations and emotions. This makes it possible to enter an extremely meditative temporality, but at the same time very active for the spectator.
Noémie Goudal : Fire has a dual role and we played with that. Fire is devastating, destructive, and at the same time revealing. Once he has consumed a landscape, he will allow another to appear. And it takes us back to the history of geology, because it goes beyond our planet and it's also an extremely important source of energy.