May 2008, Claude Closky Retrospective at MAC/VAL

 Claude Closky, 100%, 2004, stainless steel poles, two color flags,
 dimensions variable.
 Installation view, Quancheng Guangchang (Spring Place), Jinan (China)
 courtesy Laurent Godin Gallery, Paris. photo © Joséphine de Bère

Claude Closky Retrospective
March 28 through June 22, 2008

Parisian artist Claude Closky is wondering whether you want love or lust. He wants to know intimate details about your sex life, your role in the workplace, your emotions and innermost thoughts. "Are you a spendthrift or a tightwad," "Would you rather dream or do?," "What do you listen to when making love, soul or techno?," are just a sampling of the kinds of questions you can answer online at The work, dating from 2007 takes the form of a multiple choice quiz similar to those found in magazines like Glamour, Elle or Jane. The difference here is that the questions never end, and the constant self interrogation becomes obsessive, and is magnified by the impulse to answer the next question, and the next and the next and still the next in order to unearth some truth or meaning underneath the endless barrage of questions.

Claude Closky, World News, 2002, courtesy Laurent Godin Gallery, Paris. photo © Joséphine de Bère

Claude Closky, Manège [Roundabout]', 2006, video installation, 16 lcd screens, PC, dimensions variable, unlimited duration. Exhibition view Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2006. courtesy Laurent Godin Gallery, Paris.
photos © Joséphine de Bère

A question. As any relevant work of art can testify, a line of questioning is just as important as the choice of medium, exhibition space, etc. In his first retrospective, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Val-de-Marne on the outskirts of Paris, entitled 8002-9891 Closky's preoccupation is, what happens when there is no more art to see? More specifically, what happens when you take down the gallery walls, plunge the viewer in near-total darkness, and give them only a tool allowing them to hear rather than see the works? At Mac-Val, visitors are given a kind of infrared homing device to wear around their necks, which allows them to hear one of around 50 sound pieces at a time depending on where they are physically located in the exhibit. The origin of the audible texts are Closky's works dating back to 1989, read and recorded, in order to be played back for the viewer/listener, which include a seemingly random thematic content- a voice counting backward then forward, an interview between a woman (an artist?) and a man containing 'yes' or 'no' questions, the recording of a radio station announcer.

 Claude Closky, Flying saucer, Mac Val n°4’, 2005,
 courtesy Laurent Godin Gallery, Paris. photo © Joséphine de Bère

This lack of 'message,' or discourse, is in fact a characteristic quality of Closky's immense oeuvre, which often consists of images found in the mass media and on the internet. Closky defies categorization thanks to this ambiguous use of an a priori 'low' culture- which is no longer the fizzy pop concoctions of Warhol but more of a complete negation of any notion of aesthetic qualities. Several garish pop-up banners piled up on top of each other as-is, an amalgam that responds to a 21st-century, sample-heavy culture that remixes rather than deconstructs. Unlike artists who choose to approach heavily postmodern themes, Closky distinguishes himself by treating signs and symbols as nothing more nor less than what they stand for today, whether encountered on the television, in a magazine, or on the internet. What interests Closky isn't what the pop-up on your laptop means, but what it can become when we ask ourselves what it means in the context of our own lives. If we keep asking ourselves questions, we can be sure to find an answer behind the piles of junk mail in our inboxes.

Cynthia Valdez, WM Paris

Cynthia Valdez is a writer in Paris.

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