A BODY HAIR FOUND ON THE GROUND
in "Claude Closky", Paris: Hazan, 1999 (excerpt pp 9-15). Translated from French by David Wharry.
A drawing is only answerable to the impulse that produces it and it can win over by sheer verve and energy. Books introduce, obligatorily it seems, the poison of rumination. Firstly due to mundane practical considerations between the project’s inception and completion; secondly because the book incorporates time as a necessary artistic component; and finally because it assembles whereas the drawing disperses and it maintains a close link between the notions of inventory and collection whereas these considerations only occasionally manifest themselves in drawing (not by chance, in the most worked and least spontaneous ones).
In 1989, Closky produced a catalogue of propositions, Closky, 1989, which included, in skeletal form, many of the works of the months and years to come and even much later. One of his first series of photographs, 240 allumettes [240 Matches], 1993, merely reiterates the textual proposition of Dans la boîte d’allumettes [In the Match Box], developed on p. 85 of this collection. A book recently published by the artist, 1000 raisons de compter jusqu’à mille [1000 Reasons to Count to a Thousand], 1997, simply develops the principle of Cent quatre-vingt-dix raisons de compter jusqu’à cent quatrevingt- dix [One Hundred and Ninety Reasons to Count to One Hundred and Ninety], on p. 81.The video Pharmacie ouverte [Open Pharmacy], dated 1998, is an adaptation of a sketch reproduced under the same title on p. 207. Etc. Apart from this work, which he considered unsastisfactory, several categories of books, other than the limited or single editions, remain to be considered.
The handwritten notebooks are collections of inseparable drawings resulting from a given activity, often repetitive, whose duration is usually determined by the book’s size.
The photocopied or printed books have, with rare exceptions, a textual content and tend:
• either, as in Les 365 jours de l’année 1991 classés par ordre chronologique [The 365 Days of 1991 Classified in Chronological Order], 1991, or 1000 raisons de compter jusqu’à mille, 1997, to rework existing series according to the taxonomic principle on which they are based (series work for everyone and we all use them in identical conventional ways: numbers, the alphabet, the calendar, etc.);
• or, as in Les 1000 premiers nombres classés par ordre alphabétique [The First 1000 Numbers Classified in Alphabetical Order], 1989, or Les 365 jours de l’année 1991 classés par ordre de taille [The 365 Days of the Year 1991 Classified by Size], 1991, to dissect them using an alien taxonomic principle (belonging to another convention);
• or, as in Tout ce que je peux faire [Everything I Can Do], 1992, Tout ce que je peux être [Everything I Can Be], 1993, Tout ce que je peux avoir [Everything I Can Have], 1994, to create subjective series organized according to a conventional principle (the dictionary);
• or, as in Sans titre (Craven A) [Untitled (Craven A)], 1993, to reveal “relations” perceptible only from a specific point of view (the series potentially exists but, without adopting the point of view in question, nobody would have considered it as such prior to the artist doing so).
With the handwritten books, Closky makes piles. With the multiples, he unravels, draws out, and exhausts all possible combinations. Yet the notebooks and multiples quite often reveal the same preoccupations.
Of the handwritten books, those composed of sequences of collages are more heterogeneous but demonstrate more clearly the way in which Closky apprehends reality and appropriates its objects. They are part-sketchbook, part-scrapbook, part-collections of writings and thanks to this, the origin of their textual or iconography is perfectly clear. The artist draws most of his source material from magazine advertisements and, it is a personal vision or subjective precipitation rather than an object which he seeks to produce through the medium of the collage.
The book is a product of thought as well as a vector linking author and reader. One “writes” or “reads a book” as one “drinks a glass,” according to the same metonymical shortcut that confuses content and container, work and “publication,” “volume” and its contents. It was this double game that brought Closky to the artist’s book. Moreover, it was by following the same train of thought that he came to consider the computer as “medium,” as a free and stimulating means of expression, which, like language itself, gives rise to and enables the expression of ideas and hypotheses, and develops one’s ability to question the world and one’s perception of it.
Since 1989, Closky has produced more than thirty books but has not written a single one. Everything that happens is matter for investigation for him and his entire production is a commentary on the identity and form of the material he seeks here, there, and everywhere. No lengthy discourses: Closky has no pretension of proposing a new media theory. He aims neither to take nor overthrow the dominant position. He seeks neither to deny nor “denounce” the power of reality and does not attempt to influence its form by creating new products, anti-products, counter-products, or non-products. If he contributes towards very slightly modifying our perception of reality, it is merely by underlining its little anomalies, its hidden, potential, allusive, indirect, and obscure sides. His entire work is rooted in a world overdetermined by the encoded use of language and by the hyperencrypted 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 overrepresented 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.
As single editions, books are condemned to confinement, to be distributed clandestinely and exhibited under glass. Multiple editions can be read more widely, which breaks our fetishist relationship to the object while giving it the undeniably hypnotic status of industrial product, that is, of an object resulting from a more or less long series of mechanically produced transformations (a sterile object, produced by a machine, which itself was made by a machine, wich…). As a single edition, unique because it is handwritten but above all because of its confidential distribution, the book remains a notebook, even if it does not have a notebook’s thickness and size. As a multiple publication, it becomes a full-fledged book no matter what its content is.
Through similar force of habit, the term “catalogue” designates any publication produced to accompany an exhibition (even if it has neither the form nor the taxonomic aim), and “slim volume” is the term used for a short book of poems with only limited distribution. Due to ignorance or neglect, the term “artist’s book” continues to conjure up principally the image of a hand-painted book, a book-object, or perhaps even a collector’s piece, but certainly not a banal offset- printed edition of five hundred to a thousand. For the printer, who happily has no feelings one way or the other, any bound collection of a few pages is termed a “brochure” – a definition unlikely to be put into question.
Until the series Tout ce que je peux faire, 1992, Tout ce que je peux être, 1993, Tout ce que je peux avoir, 1994, Closky’s books were to be considered as inventories even if they combined autobiography with statistical analysis. With Osez [Dare], 1994, Profils de célibataires [Singles], 1995, and Prédictions [Predictions], 1995, he began combining phrases and seemed to be giving free rein to new preoccupations.
In fact, narrative is introduced through another type of inventory. Using classified advertisements and horoscopes as source material enabled Closky to place phrases one after the other according to the materialist principle that the one thousand and one reasons to write a book are, in order, phrase one, phrase two, phrase three, etc. In fact, Closky did not write the thousand and first, the thousandth and the nine hundred and ninety-ninth phrases himself. Therefore, despite their appearance, these books are still collages, which distort source material not by direct intervention but by simply placing things side by side. Phrase by phrase, a portrait and a narrative is built up: a heterogeneous portrait of a single man and of a society wrestling with its own ongoing selfimage. Closky’s intervention consists simply in asking society for this self-portrait. “Like files filed by their own filing systems, social subjects distinguish themselves by the distinctions they bring about – between colorful and insipid, beautiful and ugly, chic and outmoded, distinguished and vulgar – and which express or betray their objective classifications.” The result is interesting sociologically, even if the method used is a subjective one. There is nothing scientific about the argument except its consideration of the involuntary epistemological contribution of the artist in terms of a history of procedures, which remains perpetually incomplete. Artistic procedure is not a delinquent scientific procedure, it simply pursues another aim. And it can have unpredictable results, such as transforming hundreds of phrases placed end to end into a decorative frieze.
This necessarily leads us to consider Closky’s work from a formal point of view.
 According to an analogous principle, any exhibition “worthy of the name” necessitates the publication of a catalogue. Hence the temptation, following the example of Douglas Huebler’s November 68, to publish a catalogue as a form of participation in an exhibition. This is also the case with 24 vases [24 Flower Vases], 1994, and Prédictions [Predictions], 1996, and it was also what sets these publications apart. I would add here that the term “catalogue” was used inappropriately on the acknowledgements page of most of Closky’s publications until Tout ce que je peux avoir [Everything I Can Have], 1994.
 See “Cinquante-deux raisons de jouer aux cartes” [Fifty Two Reasons to Play Cards], “Cent raisons de monter cinq étages” [One Hundred Reasons to Play Cards], “Cent quatre-vingt-dix raisons de compter jusqu’à cent quatrevingt- dix” [One Hundred and Ninety Reasons to Count to One Hundred and Ninety], “Démonstration du processus de création en quatre-vingt-dix phrases” [Demonstration of the Creative Process in Ninety Phrases], in Closky, 1989, published by the artist, Paris, 1989, and 1000 raisons de compter jusqu’à mille [1000 Reasons to Count to a Thousand], published by the artist, Paris, 1997.