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CLAUDE CLOSKY. U (ENG)

Espai 13, Fundación Joan Miró, Barcelona, 2004

Wednesday 28 January 2009, by Montse Badia

All the versions of this article: [English] [Español]

Claude Closky (Paris, 1963) likes to question the use of signs and make a play on their appearance. The issue of identity and the conventions of representation constitute the central thread of his artistic explorations. In a way that is both light-hearted and obsessive, he shows how the potential combinations of different media and the possible variations in systems of classification can be infinite. He constructs taxonomies and identifies an order in amorphous systems, or sometimes he does just the opposite, destroying systems by taking them to the conclusion that their logic is absurd. He creates directories, lists of abstract typologies, and questions structures that are seemingly objective and universal, such as letters, calendars and codes, treating them all as trivialities. He also, for example, makes inventories: the first thousand numbers in alphabetical order (Les 1,000 premiers nombres classés par ordre alphabétique, 1989), or a list of the days by order of magnitude (1994); he collects sayings, ordering them in size from the longest to the shortest, or invites us on an entertaining journey during which we have to constantly choose between two alternatives, in order to demonstrate how impossible it is to systematise replies in fixed or conclusive interpretations (Do you want Love or Lust, 1997). Other works question the economy of time (numbering the squares on sheets of graph paper or the names in a telephone directory, as in 8,633 personnes que je ne connais pas à Dôle, 1993). He enjoys unproductive work and useless knowledge. In another series he shows the arbitrary nature of market forces and prices (Sans titre – 15, 20, 25, 30 francs, 2000 depicts four identical lighters, the price of which gradually increases); the fetish of designer labels and the unlimited choice that the consumer society offers us (Cliquez ici, 2001).

Drawing, books, video, photography, objects, sound and computers are different media – or, rather, different means of expression – that Closky uses according to what he wants to say. For him, drawing is linked with speed and spontaneity; books are a product of thought, in the sense that they require planning, dedication and much stricter supervision; photography allows for serialisation (as in La Baula, 1995) and it can also be a means of negation (such as 47 francs que je n’ai pas depensé or Un pistolet avec lequel je n’ai tué personne); video enables him to explore (edit and deconstruct) existing cinematographic material, and the computer becomes a tool for producing almost infinite combinations of sayings and thoughts.

As Fréderic Paul so rightly says in his book on the artist published by Éditions Hazan in 1999, “His entire work is rooted in a world overdetermined by the encoded use of language and by the hyper-encrypted expansion of commerce and publicity. In this world of ours, sign and product have the same status as consumer goods. Closky accepts the role of the consumer. Reality, which both presents itself to us and imposes itself on us, is all that these products on display are. It is not by chance that his photographs, books and collages are full of products that are over-represented in magazine advertisements: cosmetics, perfumes, watches, jewelry and luxury goods in general. On the contrary, most of us identify consumption, a sort of collective euphoria, with personal emancipation and quasi-creation.”

“U”, the project presented in the Espai 13, is a video installation composed of two projections that converge on an edge. The loop consists of a succession of rhythmic slogans from the world of advertising aimed directly at the viewer: U know how, U save 50%, U have new dreams, U have an eye 4 beauty, U enter the gateway 2 unlimited opportunities, etc. Even though these messages are banal, in an advertising context they acquire a sophisticated status. “Brand names are part of everyday vocabulary,” says Closky. “Benetton or Lancôme have the power to advertise worldwide year in, year out, in every media.” In fact, advertising now sells not brands but role models and lifestyles. The artist uses the highly simplified SMS language, a fast and cheap form of effective and immediate communication, created by mobile phone users and now adopted in many advertising strategies to reach those very users in their own language.

By confronting us with this specific form of communication that we all live with but perhaps do not take too seriously and probably do not realise how much it influences our social behaviour – turning us into consumers first and foremost – Claude Closky provides us with a portrait of the society to which we belong. But his intention is neither didactic nor hectoring (though he cannot deny his fascination with these advertising devices). The artist is content to subtly underline the mechanisms of persuasion, the techniques of seduction and suggestion, the little anomalies or dynamics of intervention that daily determine what we choose: the perfume we select, the clothes we wear, the car we drive, the music we listen to, the film we see, the party we vote for and even the charity we support. By confronting us with these messages that bombard us every day from all sides, Closky appeals to our capacity for reaction in order to alter our perception of reality, increase our awareness and stimulate us into questioning and doubting.

Montse Badia
February 2004

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