Noémie Goudal, Soulèvements, 2020
A new book from Contemporary Heroine Noémie Goudal continues her series of works exploring our desire to explain the physical world. Noémie holds a great fascination with the history of science and the narratives that surround our relationship to geology. Soulèvements is inspired by how scientists through the centuries have explained the presence of marine fossils on the tops of mountains. Noémie’s photographs are a complex process of installation and re-sculpting of rock formations using mirrors.
Photographed on the Pink Granite Coast in northern Brittany, France, each image is created from an arrangement of thirty mirrors. Noémie focuses foremost on the sculptural installation in the landscape, with photography playing a secondary role. The smooth contours of these rock formations are interrupted by the hard lines of the square mirrors, echoing the geometric measurements used by geologists. While the images do not look real, it is easy to become lost in their shapes. Noémie plays with our perceptions, allowing us the freedom to roam as well as making us complicit in her fabrication.
There are seven Soulèvements in the series, each a metre and a half high when exhibited. The book emulates this scale by zooming in on details of the images. Not only does this further distort the sense of what the viewer is seeing but it highlights the traces of construction. Our sense of perspective is confused by the discontinuities of sharp focus and blur. From behind the sharp edges of a surface we can see the legs of a support, the spaces between the mirrors. The edge of one shape suddenly disappears into blank space, a stratum repeats or veers off at an unexpected angle. Each spread takes up the mantle of remoulding the landscape.
An extension of the layers of the images is found in the insert, ‘Revolutions’. Printed in a smaller format which slips inside the book, it includes images of the artistic process as well as theoretical texts and scientific iconography. Poring over these details gives the reader a new perspective on the photographs. The delicate black lines of the illustrations reflect the timelessness of the black and white photography.
A quiet contemplation on the impact humanity has on the physical landscape, Soulèvements succeeds in raising up new ephemeral mountains. The layers of meaning create a space where we can reflect on the relationship we have with the physical planet in the twenty-first century.
all images © Noémie Goudal. Published by RVB BOOKS