Claude Closky

Jennifer Flay

Claude Closky’s recent show centered on that ever-present question: “What does consuming mean?” A kind of ludic breviary, his work answered this question through an esthetic founded entirely on the pleasure of the consumer (of signs). At the very least, Closky’s is a paradoxical solution that samples the quickly learned and methodically forgotten lessons of conceptual art (up to Richard Prince), from Barthesian semiology to the experimental literature of Georges Perec. The form adopted, whatever the support (video, drawings, collages, or books), is like a series of propositions that contradicts the meaning of the individual propositions.

For example, the book produced for the exhibition entitled Osez (Dare, 1994) is centered on a repertoire of statements taken from fashion magazines then classed according to their length, from the longest to the shortest. It goes from: “Learn to do two things at once: talking on your cordless phone and doing the dishes” to a cascade of verbal injunctions: “Pay! Pose. Pray. Dream. Wash.” and “Dare” (the shortest imperative in French). Out of the visual context of the magazines, this abstract selection of multiple possibilities (“Learn transformism. Save up to 1000 Francs! Enter the world of dreams . . . ”) annuls them all, and presents at the same time what might be called a conceptual form of copywriting.

Another important piece in this show comes out of the same logic: three long collages of advertising slogans for a shopping center are linked together, from every week in 1994, in a syntagmatic and logotypic procession: “Fabulous prices,” “It’s a party,” Cut-rate sale,“ ”10 exceptional days." As the exceptional becomes systematic, Closky catches the mechanisms of advertising’s means of seduction in their own trap.

In fact, Closky’s response is not tautological. These pieces do not say that consumption is a language (which we know), but that the language of consumption is as a whole a consumption of language whose contradictory mode of seduction it reveals. That is to say, the way in which signs, whether those of advertising or of a drawing, are at once uttered and disrupted by the language that they use: this is the constitutive principle of addition and subtraction, even of desire (of buying), once desire finds itself thrown back into the schizophrenic universe of the ruses of language.

This is why his ballpoint pen drawings also function like visual accidents between signified and signifier; for Closky, the arbitrary of the sign is far from having exhausted its resources. For example, the drawing of a drop of water upside down entitled “une goutte qui monte” (a drop going up, 1994). Or the number 4 in the middle of a page entitled, Un 4 qui ne sert à rien (a useless 4, 1994), but whose uselessness nevertheless served to create what is called “an artist’s drawing.”

A small factory of potential art that manipulates nonmeaning. This rhetoric is sufficiently narcissistic to, finally, never produce anything other than a seduction centered around the name Claude Closky—the name of an artist or the name of a code?

Olivier Zahm

Translated from the French by Sheila Glaser.