In Noémie Goudal’s images, strange towers appear to float on water, vacant modernist buildings meld with gothic architectures, and mysterious orbs hover over seascapes and mountain ranges. These otherworldly scenes are a result of her interest in our understanding of nature through myth, religion, literature, and early scientific discovery. Using trompe l’oeil techniques, Goudal’s photographs confound the eye and challenge our perception of depth and dimension. Her work possesses an air of fantasy, as the viewer is never quite sure if what is presented is reality or construction.
Goudal achieves this fluctuation through a process that involves travel to remote locations, large-scale installations, analog photography, and digital collage. Working with a small team of assistants, she mounts her photographs on cardboard and wooden frameworks, installs them in unexpected environments—deserts, rainforests, abandoned buildings—and then re-photographs them, creating uncanny visual spaces. The technical expertise and precision with which she photographs these formations recalls German conceptual artists Bernd and Hilla Becher’s documentary typologies of water towers and other industrial architectures. The surreal quality of Goudal’s work, however, situates it in the realm of science fiction and magic realism. Where the Bechers used a straight, objective style to record buildings subject to the passage of time, Goudal adapts this approach to document scenes that transcend time altogether, as they often never existed to begin with.
For the twentieth iteration of deCordova’s PLATFORM series, Goudal brings her otherworldly photography to the Sculpture Park, where Telluris, an image from her newest body of work is printed at a monumental scale and installed near the Park’s front entrance. To create this photograph, Goudal traveled to the Mojave Desert in California, using the barren landscape and distant mountains as a backdrop for a series of stark geometric formations made from wooden cubes. Arranged into the rough silhouette of a pyramid, the structure in Telluris (Latin for earth or ground) rises from the desert floor like a mirage and evokes the abstracted form of a mountain. Reaching up to thirteen feet in height, the pile of pine boxes shares similarities with Sol LeWitt’s Minimalist structures, a series inspired in part by his time spent working in an architect’s office. Using the cube as a basic unit, he created modular sculptures that allude to ancient ziggurats and modern skyscrapers, much like his Tower (DC) (1989; 2009), which stands nearby in the Sculpture Park. While LeWitt’s structures maintain clean, square lines, Goudal rotated her cubes at irregular angles in order to suggest the rugged contours of a mountain.
PLATFORM is a series of one-person commissioned projects by early- and mid-career artists from New England, national, and international art communities that engage with deCordova’s unique landscape. The PLATFORM series lets artists expand their practice and visitors experience new approaches to contemporary sculpture and public art.