Maëlle Poésy and Noémie Goudal discuss their show "Anima"
With Anima, Maëlle Poésy and Noémie Goudal deliver a show that questions our relationship with time and landscape. Both film and performance, this contemplative and fascinating creation is about to go on tour, with support from the Institut français for international dates.
Updated on 04/12/2023
Could you give us a quick overview of your respective journeys and how they led you to meet? How did the desire to collaborate come about?
Noémie Goudal: For me, I trained at St Martins School and then at the Royal College of Arts in London. I've known Maëlle for a long time, and we always knew we would do something together one day. Several years ago, I was offered an exhibition in Arles, and the director Christophe Wiesner offered me the chance to work on a performance. I talked to Maëlle about it and it became a project in its own right, much more ambitious, a real show that we produced at the Maëlle theatre in Dijon, among other places.
Maëlle Poésy: For my part, I started as an actress at the Strasbourg National Theatre, before setting up my company Crossroad, with whom I produced around fifteen shows in ten years. Christophe Wiesner, the director of Rencontres photographiques d'Arles invited us to create this project with Noémie, which we presented again immediately afterwards at the Festival d'Avignon. From the very start, we were in a multidisciplinary space between contemporary art and theatre.
Noémie Goudal, could you tell us about the Post-Atlantica project, the precursor to Anima, which focuses on paleoclimatology, the study of ancient weather?
Noémie Goudal: Our starting point was indeed Post-Atlantica, a research project I conducted around paleoclimatology, the study of ancient climates. I remembered stories from expeditions where scientists discovered jungles captured under the ice, showing how climate strata fit into our own landscapes. The Sahara, for example, has undergone quite significant metamorphoses, where at certain times it has even been extremely humid. We used this research as a starting point to create a much broader discussion around this idea. How do we humans position ourselves in relation to these landscapes that seem so immutable to us, but are actually in motion? The second aspect arises from a philosophical investigation into notions of temporality. In the show, human temporality, which is very fast and counts in seconds and minutes, is confronted with geological temporality, deep-time, which counts in millions of years. Anima is a show in which these two tempos finally come together.
What were the challenges in bringing this work on stage? Could you please describe the Anima system to us?
Maëlle Poésy: We designed the entire show together, everything from writing the films to the stagecraft. First of all, the question was how to physically convey a certain relationship with time to the spectator. Quite quickly, we decided to work on three long projections, displayed on three screens, sometimes featuring the same landscape, or different views at other times. The idea is to put the spectator in quite a meditative and contemplative state, both physically and emotionally. We also wanted to give a feeling of the present, which is embodied by Chloé Moglia, an acrobatic performer in the middle of these moving landscapes.
On stage, Anima combines two very different timescales: the photography and movements of performer Chloé Moglia, and the music of DJ Chloé. Is this a metaphor for how the naturally slow pace of climate is being disrupted by the Anthropocene?
Noémie Goudal: I have a problem with the concept of the Anthropocene, precisely because it stems from an anthropocentric viewpoint. Imagining the Earth in its own motion, without man, is also a useful exercise. The human presence in Anima is a metaphor for the present time, but not necessarily for humanity. Chloé Moglia's performance is extremely captivating: you hang on every move, which gives a very acute sense of the present.
Maëlle Poésy: The size of the landscapes, in comparison to Chloé, also indicates something to this effect. We wanted to show that we are a very small part of a greater whole.
Should Anima be read as an eco-conscious fairy tale? How do you approach the ecological issue in your work?
Noémie Goudal: Of course, the show is not seen through the eyes of spectators from the 1960s, we are in the 2020s. Anima's media coverage plays a huge role in how it is perceived, and we do too. Anima talks a lot about layers, both geological and temporal, that overlap with each other. Our fossil fuels are one of those layers, with fossilised jungles being the source of coal, and fish bones for oil. This creates a relationship between time and space: energy that took millions of years to create is burned in seconds. Our temporality is in opposition to the Earth's.
Maëlle Poésy: You cannot separate a work from its context, which today is one of climate emergency. Anima deals with the decomposition and recomposition of landscapes, which inevitably evokes the current situation, even though this was not our initial goal. We are talking about landscapes that were transformed over millions of years that are now being altered in a matter of decades.
Anima is a work set to tour internationally, and the Institut français is supporting your performances in Europe and the United States. This achievement is driven by the format of the performance, which is entirely without words. Why did you choose this approach, and how did you use it when creating the show?
Maëlle Poésy: Words were not the focus at all, the narrative is visual. We wanted to share an experience of time and metamorphosis, I don't see what words could have added to this. I do work a lot with speech, with actors on the set. But for this project, the creation imposed the choice for us and we turned it into a visual and musical work.