Claude Closky: Web Sites and Other Works
Dike Blair
published in ArtByte, Vol. 2-#4, Nov.-Dec.1999, pp. 70-1

I recently visited an intriguing web site created by the French artist, Claude Closky. The site ( was done in conjunction with an exhibition of Closky's photos of sunsets and sunrises (beautiful, digitally enhanced, soft gradations of sky) in the small gallery of Colette, a hyper hip Parisian boutique. And, like the photos, the site collaborates with the store's pretensions while maintaining a gently ironic, critical position in relation to it. What struck me about the site was that it was both good, old-fashioned, conceptual art and one of the best examples I've seen of an artist making, rather than indicating the possibilities of, art on the web. More on that particular site at the end of this piece.

Closky's sites usually involve some kind of "list" making and/or some wry usage of marketing lingo that is simultaneously absurd and poignant. His sites loop or are in perpetual motion and, interestingly, they rarely involve interactivity-and when they do, users are made to feel like they are failing a Turing test. Here are the address and brief descriptions of a few:


"Bla-bla" is composed of 2500 pop-up pages with bits of "conversation" culled from interviews with famous people, "free speech" magazine columns, and advertising texts. The text windows which leapfrog at 8 second intervals create an absurdist dialogue.


An image of a perfect, tubular wave opens the page. Suddenly an image of a surfer blinks into the tube, then disappears. The degree to which this simple manipulation jars our conditioned sense of figure/ground relationships, of transcendental beauty and nature is stupid and compelling.


In this piece users are given a series of either/or choices beginning with, "Do you want Love or Lust?" Either selection leads down a branching path of decision making: "At the movies, did you like the gourmet games in 9-1/2Weeks or the dangerous games in Basic Instinct?" leads to, "You're about to go running. Whose music do you pop into your Walkman? Rollins Band or The Offspring?" etc. This site feels like a parody of hyper text, a critique of consumer culture, and/or an inquisition into free will.

Closky's sites and CD-Roms (which he makes with the assistance of programmers and are sometimes adapted from non-digital works) are direct extensions of his work in other media. His output over the last decade (he's 36 years old) has been prodigious. He's created and exhibited numerous artist's books, collages, drawings, and photos. When one couples Closky's range of media with the cumulative obsessiveness of the projects and the fecundity of his imagination, his production borders on the promiscuous. To list a very few of the non-digital works: A collage of cut-out images of products advertised from 1 French Franc to 144 FF; a series of photographs of digital watch faces that display his favorite "minutes" (12:34, 3:21, etc.); a list of all 3,415 "Friday the 13ths" between the years 1 and 1991 AD. I'm particularly attracted to his recent collages which piece together the ubiquitous watery "flow/spills" of beauty products.

Closky's artistic roots are French. They reflect Duchamp, Fluxus, and the absurdist literature of the OULIPO group (its best known writer, Georges Perec, wrote his La Disparation without the letter 'e'). His semiology develops from the languages of reproduction, consumption and marketing. But what I particularly like about the evolution of Closky's work, and where his art starts to feel expansive and global, is that he has progressed through the Gaulish tendency to subordinate the tactile and the retinal (the sensual) to the theoretical/critical and allows sensuality-albeit a mediated and distanced one-to function on a primary level. In this Closky is more like Yves Klein who created deeply sensual work which sprang from a critical stance, an existential humor and despair; but found beauty in a deeply personal "void."

That notion of "void" leads me to my affection for the aforementioned Closky/Colette site:

AOUT (August) 1999

When I go there I find a window of color that gradually shifts through spectra of varying hue and chroma. It's pretty, and pretty empty...and then I begin to experience it as a sublime banality. I see a poetic critique of digital art and a celebration of digital technology (I'd buy it if it was offered as a screen saver). Knowing Closky's work I realize It is another kind of list, a list of colors. And then I start to see it as a scientific/phenomenological gesture-he's playing with our perceptual gap between seeing in incremental units and seamless gradations. Then I think of the context (Colette) and realize there's a political/critical quotient. He's teasing the constantly shifting "now" of colors and the marketing and forecasting that goes with that notion. He's created a velour critique of the conflation of the worlds of fashion and art. And then I think of time, and the sunrises and sunsets of one month and of two millennia. With Closky's work the list of possibilities and ambiguities could go on and on.