Emptying the Landscape
Published by The New Art gallery Walsall and FOAM Museum, 2014
Beneath the different layers of artifice from which Goudal’s images are made, the artist firstly questions the very notion of landscape, which always remains a construct per se. As the French geographer, Orientalist and philosopher Augustin Berque noted, the term “landscape” is a relatively recent one, arriving in Europe in the Renaissance. It first appeared in China, where it was used by hydraulic engineers in the context of controlling natural water courses and protecting houses against flooding. The term literally meant “water from the mountains”. It had no aesthetic connotations until around the year 300 BC, when the Chinese poet Zuo Si wrote some lines that exalt an emotion relating to this word: “The waters from the mountain have a pure sound.” II
In Goudal’s images this still surviving notion of the purity and beneficence of the natural landscape shifts slighttly so that it reveals some of the fragility in the relationship between the natural and the artificial, the organic and the inorganic, amnesia and memory.
It is here that another fundamental element in Goudal’s work emerges: namely its theatrical nature, like a stage set. In her work, nature generally presents itself as a large stage occupied by a set that is in fact its own representation (in Tectonique, 2014, for example, or Stereoscope, 2012) or the representation of the constructed (Observatoires, 2013-14; Satellite, 2013). As in the theatre of The Absurd it could be said that here nature is represented in order to be vacated, like a stage ultimately intended to be inhabited by other sets, which are in turn nothing other than masks of something that might have been or might have taken place in another time, past or future, or another place, near-at-hand or far off.
In Goudal’s work, nature, the landscape and monumental constructions imbued with a seemingly magical mysticism become archetypal characters from an enigmatic world in which the unity of time, place and action (the theoretical bases of classical theatre) have been totally abandoned so that viewers can arrive at their own conclusions. As in Ionesco’s plays, themes such as the conscious or the unconscious, the absurd and the logical, the comprehensible and the incomprehensible, run through Goudal’s works. This is a deconstruction of the landscape and its forms with the aim of rethinking them in another way and through a different gaze.
This, then, is how Noémie Goudal’s photography empties the landscape, breaking it down and reconstructing it with the intention of looking at life’s experiences from a range of different viewpoints and without excuses of any kind. As one of Samuel Beckett’s characters in Waiting for Godot states: “Here’s a man for you, blaming on his boots the faults of his feet.” III
Translated from Spanish to English by Laura Suffield.