r e v i e w s

Claude Closky

by Laure Jaumouillé


FRAC des Pays de la Loire, Carquefou, 16.12.2020-4.07.2021

Born in 1963, Claude Closky lives in Paris. In 1982, he attended the Advanced National School of Decorative Arts [ENSAD]. A year later, he left the ENSAD and co-founded Les Frères Ripoulin, a collective including, among others, Pierre Huyghe (then going by the name of Piro Kao) and Nina Childress. The collective became involved in street art activities, producing collective graffiti and organizing various actions. Thereafter, Claude Closky developed his own personal art practice. He focused notably on accumulations and classifications which he rationalized ad absurdum. As such, in 1989, he produced a publication entitled: Les 1000 premiers nombres classés par ordre alphabétique. Claude Closky has always demonstrated a form of scepticism in regards to the production of objects, as well as spectacular effects. This restraint has led him to experiment on the Internet. He has often played with media codes and conventions, in order to politically deconstruct them. In October 2005, he won the Marcel Duchamp prize. In 2008, his so-called “retrospective” show, held at the MAC VAL, took the form of a huge sound system.

You’ve decided to exhibit just one of your works among a selection of pieces by other artists. You are barely represented in the exhibition, yet you remain ubiquitous in the choice of the works and in the scenography. How did you come to this decision to stand back ?

Developing an exhibition allows one to address others, while constructing a language which articulates the works between themselves. I preferred this dialogue between different artworks, coming from the FRAC collections or from other sources, to a dialogue with my own pieces. Of course, the choice of works, the matters raised, the questioning of the spectacular and the seductive, and the simple means and craftsmanship employed, all echo my own practice.

Gilles Mahé et Jean-Philippe Lemée, Dessins à Saint-Herblain, 1994-1997, 29 posters, each
63 x 83 cm. / Alighiero Boetti, Rosso Palermo, 1967, paint on cardboard and cork laminated on aluminium, 71 x 71 x 3 cm. / Allan McCollum, Sans titre (de la série Surrogates Paintings), 1980, acrylic on cardboard and wood. / Mladen Stilinović, Sans titre, 1990, acrylic on wood, 26 x 23 x 1 cm. / Emmanuel Péreire, Mélange d’un vert et d’un blanc façon peinture abstraite, 1991, acrylic, marble powder, coating and glue on canvas, 38 x 46 x 2,7 cm.
Photo Fanny Trichet

As it often happens when an artist is invited to develop a show, “producing an exhibition” seems to amount to “producing work”. Do you reckon, here, that you’ve created a work ?

The exhibition isn’t trying to produce a work because, on the contrary, its purpose is to show works under a different light. I want to champion the singular nature of each one of them, within a network of associations and contrasts. In this endeavour, I believe I have the same freedom as when I do my usual work.

The exhibition is defined by a certain temporal rhythm: most of the works change on a daily basis, whereas others are tirelessly repeated. Is the experience of the show thus unique each and every day ?

The presentation of the works is based on their time-related quality, and the idea behind the exhibition is to bring this aspect of the work at the forefront. The specific and consecutive elements of a series, or the different parts of a work, are shown individually: by day, by week, by month, and so on. On Kawara’s postcards are exhibited one after the other on the anniversary of the day when they were originally sent. A Week At A Glance, by Micah Lexier, transforms itself every week; the brush strokes of Niele Toroni’s Calendrier and Delphine Coindet’s silkscreened Calendrier anarchiste appear on a monthly basis; Jean Claude Lefevre’s diary published in the magazine Art Présence follows the exhibition diary 25 years later, etc. This way of exhibiting each element turn by turn will stress the tangible length of the time of work. And, in this display, each part is valid for the whole. This arrangement is designed to shed light on the deployment of the works through time, rather than the place they occupy in space. It aims at focusing the attention as much on the moment experienced, as on its appearance.

LAb[au], 365, 2016, Steel, aluminium, PMMA, custom-tailored electronics, LED, computer, generative design software, variable dimensions. Photo Fanny Trichet

What place does uniqueness have in your practice ?

The unique or original character of works is at times contested in this project, and some works are reproductions in a catalogue. As such, I advocate for a curatorial freedom, for a flexibility in exhibition means and for a demystification of objects. Furthermore, it is the gesture of making, and sometimes “remaking”, that I want to point out to. I want to draw attention to the time spent in the production of what we’re looking at, not to its commercial value.

Could you explain for me the importance that you attach to the dimension of time in your practice, and in this show in particular ? And, more generally, what is your relation to time ?

The passage of time is the condition of my work, and thus often its object. At the FRAC des Pays de la Loire, the exhibition project relies on looking at the works from the angle of their specific temporalities. The two colouring books, Sun/Screen, for when the screen light replaces sun light by Penelope Umbrico, and No Drones by Louse Lawler, are shown coloured, a page at a time. Collection pour trouver ma meilleure signature by Annette Message is shown one page after the other. The neon Claude, Mazda, Philips by Véronique Joumard is alternately turned off and on.

Véronique Joumard, Claude, Mazda, Philips, 1990, electrical wire, switch, neon, variable dimensions. Photo Fanny Trichet

People say that, with you, it’s the “statement” that makes the work, rather than the end product. Could you tell me a little more about your relation to language ? Do you identify yourself with the spirit of post-structuralism ?

I observe relations between objects, gestures, and uses; and images, in the way I sample or make them, can be read as signs. They function like words, and yet they don’t need to be translated by words. But their meaning is not frozen. The works are revived as time passes, and enriched by contexts and moments.

It would seem that you’re stubborn about any kind of “spectacularisation”. Like at the FRAC show, in 2008 you held a so-called “retrospective” exhibition at the MAC VAL and were “in the background” (you had created darkness within the space, in order to turn it into a large sound installation). It seems that this refusal of the spectacle lies at the root of your artistic practice ?

The spectacular is the expression of event making, of movement; whereas, paradoxically, the intended goal is shock, petrification of the spectator, fascination, and exaggeration. I don’t think it’s possible or desirable to freeze the interpretation of a work. An exhibition is an operation of displacement, an open proposal. Julie Béna’s Monuments and Elsa Werth’s Perspectives provisoires remind us of this.

Elsa Werth, Perspectives provisoires, 2017, modular installation (5 variations), cotton straps, buckles, rivets, metal hooks, variable dimensions.
Photo Fanny Trichet.

The FRAC exhibition requires a certain expertise on the part of the viewer, or at least a keen attentiveness. What is your intention with regard to the viewer ?

Demanding persistent attention in the flow of information reaching us is not the solution. The viewer’s eye must remain free, it is not up to us to direct it. The works brought together in the exhibition manifest themselves like notifications on our smartphones. Others are to be consulted at greater length, or not. Should it be the words displayed on the Lab[au] FRAC, the slogan paintings of Ernest T. and Camilla Oliveira Fairclough, Boris Achour’s Actions-peu, the Instagram feeds by Patrick Raynaud and Mrzyk & Moriceau, Heidi Wood’s oracles, Dora Garcia’s prediction, Dector & Dupuy’s notations, as well as those of Sophie Calle and Hans Peter Feldmann, Martine Aballéa’s menus, and Eric Poitevin’s photographs of empty plates…

This show seems to be doomed to a state of endless unfinishedness insofar as everything is moving and being transformed throughout the time allotted to it.

Isn’t any exhibition necessarily unfinished, whether it’s evolving or not, insomuch as it will always give rise to new interpretations, for each person, at a given moment? Like looking at the wallpapers of Ana Jotta and Annette Kelm, or listening to the acoustic installations of Hanne Lippard and Kristin Oppenheim.

It seems that images, texts, numbers and sounds are all put on the same level. Is this correct ? What is your motivation behind putting all of these elements on an equal footing ?

They are different languages, they make it possible to discuss and they have an influence on what we discuss. It’s the co-existence of these different sign systems that interests me, and which I’m working on. They’re not on an equal footing, but their relation changes over time, their hierarchies are subject to the haphazard nature of their appearance.

Ernest T, L’artiste au travail, 2009, chinese ink on paper, 100 x 120 cm.
Camila Oliveira Fairclough, Paint every day, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 92 x 73 cm.
Emmanuelle Lainé, Stellatopia, 2012, poster, 195 x 260 cm.
Photo Fanny Trichet

I’m having trouble understanding the meaning of the exhibition’s title: the letter “X” calls to mind mathematical multiplications. This “multiplication” determines the exhibition set. Could you tell me a bit more about this ?

The title’s function is to describe an event, so as to make it exist. But it’s also a sort of joker or wild card, a very open expression which enables people to react in different ways, depending on whether you put yourself in the place of a particular work, the FRAC, the show, the public, and so on. It makes it possible to evoke the multiplication of gestures and objects that occupy us all on a daily basis; but also our choices, like when you tick a box on a form. By producing a table which takes on this form to fill the entire space of the exhibition gallery, —an almost square surface—, I’m emphasizing the FRAC’s choices for its collection. With the invitation, which shows the branches of the “X” as hands of a clock, I’m highlighting the time-related aspect that cannot be separated from any construction. The daily gesture forms shots of Pierre Lin Renié’s D’autres jours, of Silvana Reggiardo’s #atwork videos, of Suzanne Lafont’s photographs, Quoting sixty pages of Guide to Shopping […] page after page, of Helene Hellmich’s Dream Drawings, of Louise Bourgeois’ Insomnia Drawings, of the renewed colours of Alighiero Boetti’s monochromes, and those of Allan McCollum, Emmanuel Pereire, and Mladen Stilinović, of the movement of Eva Taulois’s sculpture, etc.

In conclusion: in your view, what is the role of the artist in society? Or rather, what might your own role be?

The definition of the artist in the Larousse dictionary is:

  • Personne qui exerce professionnellement un des beaux-arts ou, à un niveau supérieur à celui de l’artisanat, un des arts appliqués.
  • Personne dont le mode de vie s’écarte délibérément de celui de la bourgeoisie ; non-conformiste, marginal. (Vieilli)
  • Personne qui a le sens de la beauté et est capable de créer une œuvre d’art : Une sensibilité d’artiste.
  • Personne qui fait quelque chose avec beaucoup d’habileté, selon les règles de l’ar: Travail d’artiste.
  • Bon à rien, fantaisiste. (Familier)

Which we may loosely translate as the following:

  • A person who practices professionally one of the fine arts or, at a higher level than craftsmanship, one of the applied arts.
  • A person whose way of life differs deliberately from that of the bourgeoisie; non-conformist, marginal. (Old-fashioned).
  • A person who has a sense of beauty and is capable of creating a work of art: an artist’s sensibility.
  • A person who does things with a great deal of skill, according to the rules of art: an artist’s work.
  • A good-for-nothing, or fanciful person (Familiar)

For my part, I observe the world in which I live; re-creating an observation is sometimes a way of acting upon it.

Image on top : X, curated by Claude Closky, Frac Pays de la Loire, 2020-2021. Photo Fanny Trichet

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