Foam Magazine

Les Amants, Haven Her Body Was

By Anne Cecile Jaeger


Anne Cecile Jaeger: You did a BA in graphic design at Central Saint Martins in London and then a MA in Photography at the Royal College of Art. How did the evolution from graphic design to art photography come about?
Noémie Goudal: I started to get interested in Photography when I was in high school. At St Martins I was using the colour and black-and-white darkroom all day long and when I graduated with a Graphic Design BA I only had pictures in my portfolio. I think that was the moment when I decided to go fully into photography; it appeared to be quite an obvious decision at the time.

ACJ: Your works consist of sculptures or installations. We are confronted with, for example, industrial settings, which have been transformed into fictitious landscapes using paper backdrops, or sets where you have constructed alternative realities using another medium, such as plastic sheets to represent waterfalls. To what degree are those fabrications, as you call them, central to your photographic practice?
NG: The constructions are in some ways the essence of my practice, as they exist before the photograph does. The backdrop, for example, represents fiction for me. I photograph a place, very often industrial, in decay, raw and I inject the large-scale backdrops into them, as if they were a story being told. The viewer knows it’s fiction; he can see the paper, he can see it’s a construction. But still gets into it. It’s telling a narrative. The other constructions, such as Cascade are interventions into landscapes. There is often a connection and juxtaposition between the man-made and the organic. I’m usually trying to find the right balance between what I can bring to a space to alter it and what might already be there. The process takes a lot of time and it’s very difficult to find the right equilibrium.

ACJ: You call your work heterotopias, a term coinced by Michel Foucault in the ’60s, referring to spaces of otherness where mental and physical implications have a chance to merge. How did your interest in heterotopias come about, and how did you come up with the concept of portraying that fascination?

I always work at the intersection of fiction and reality; the represented and the prevaricated in photography and heterotopias are spaces that embody this idea. They don’t belong to a particular geography but lie in between the real world and the map of the human imagination. We know the places in the images exist somewhere as they are photographed, but nothing is given away about their locations. In my new series Haven Her Body Was, I explore remote and secluded spaces and constructed the series as three chapters; caves, nests and islands. The three types of space represent, each in its own way, the idea of isolation, shelter and remoteness.

ACJ: Both of the projects you submitted, Les Amants and Haven Her Body Was refer to people, and yet no one is present in your images. Is the human presence in the title merely part of our imagined construct of what could be or might have been?
NG: With the size of the images and the lack of any human presence, I’m hoping to invite the viewer inside the image to become the protagonist of the scene. The titles are a personification of the objects that I show, whether they are organic or constructed. I think of them as being alive when I photograph them as they tell me a story. Les Amants had several meanings; it was the relationship between the man-made and the organic, both fighting and espousing at the same time. However, the Cascade can also show the bed sheets of human lovers into the wild, the Promenade is an escape road for them to disappear. Haven Her Body Was refers to mother Earth and the cave as being the womb, the safe place, the birth place.

ACJ: Can you talk to me about the three still lives in that series? The tissue-like floating image, the pumpkin-like round thing and the thing on stilts. What are they, and how do they fit into the series for you?
NG: I’m interested in using a variety of techniques to amplify the dialogue between the works. The still lives are often very simple interventions. The coral/moonlike shape was a study on cavities that I made while I was gathering ideas and informations about caves and hollow formations. I sometimes integrate, within the same series, a picture that has not been constructed, such as Well. I like to confront this kind of image next to the constructed ones as it creates a vital dialogue between the invention and the what is called reality. With this blend, I’m hoping to provide the series with more dynamism and a more lively dialogue.

ACJ: In Les Amants, I’m intrigued by the chair with the fishnet-like hairscape trawling from its loins, and the picture of the eggs escaping from their boxes. Can you tell me about the images?
NG: Filet is a fishing net I found on the beach. It reminded me of an old and disintegrated wedding dress. I liked the opposition between the plastic of the net and the organic wood of the chair. However it almost looks as if the plastic of the net is eating the wood, growing around it. Kermebel was the first image of the series. I wanted to create an image in which organic shapes exhibited human behaviour, as if nature was taking over. When I started the series Les Amants, I had a narrative in mind ; Men loved the Earth so much that they devoured it; they consumed it completely. Then they left because nothing remained for them. After their disappearance, nature grew and constructed new lands.

ACJ: What are you currently working on?
NG: I am working on my nest solo show wich will be held at the gallery Edel Assanti in London in September and then travel to the Project B gallery in Milan in November. It will show the series Haven Her Body Was, and include some installations. I am currently working on building stereoscopes. The lenses and the display of the stereoscope allow me to isolate the gaze of the viewer, which is the main problematic of the show.