A series of “steps” like those of the step stools of libraries lead nowhere but to space from the central courtyard of the Madre museum, right above the project room, which hosts a projection of Manège, the video installation Claude Closky recently exhibited at the Pompidou Centre on the occasion of the Marcel Duchamp Prize.
In the very heart of the palazzo Donnaregina, renovated by architect Alvaro Siza, Claude Closky presents in the courtyard a brand-new work, Climb at your own risk. In the multifunctional space, which is literally “roofed” by the courtyard area, 16 plasma screens display thousands of images representing ordinary actions, shown as different narrative sequences in random order, following a circular movement similar to that of clock hands. Climb at your own risk overlaps with Manège, and translates it in a way which brings it closer to the history of sculpture, of ready-made and performance art. The work after which the exhibition is named also reminds us, in an ironic, home-made manner, of the many levitations which punctuate the history of representation in the Western and Christian tradition.
The ten step stools which make up Climb at your own risk give the visitor the opportunity to rise above ground without promising any spiritual or magical benefit. On the contrary, the phrase written on the step stools reminds the climber that s/he is fully responsible for his/her participation. The spectator can thus enjoy a view from above while staying on the bottom of a courtyard as plain as that of a convent.
The potential climb is “en kit”, a phrase which may be translated as prêt-à-monter in French, and is available in seven different formats of a maximum 2.26 mt. height. It clearly has a symbolic meaning which does not alter the formal and ideological aspect of the issue. Actually, if visitors decide to climb, their look will never go beyond the first floor of the museum, nor will it reach its roof or the mythical view towards the bay of Naples and the Vesuvius. On the contrary, Climb at your own risk will be visible to the visitors of the collections and exhibitions hosted in the three floors of the museum through the windows overlooking the courtyard. In this way, the installation will stress that every exhibition area is both literally and potentially a performance area, which involves the body of those who look, as well as a device which opens up a view for the visitor. The steps act as a platform and a pedestal for the visitor to experience the courtyard, the view and an exhibition on two levels.
At first sight, Claude Closky is an artist who rubs shoulders with immateriality. He is at ease with electronic media, and some of the objects he makes do not reveal themselves instantly: the books, for example. Among the materials he uses — images, texts, numbers, and sounds sampled from our environment — language seems to be the most direct instrument of appropriation. But this does not make his work any less concerned with its material specificity, its degree of visibility, with how it occupies the space. When he realizes a work on the surface, he makes the world ring hollow. He takes hold of the most ordinary modes of everyday communication and lays its forms open, by discreetly re-articulating it or redistributing visibility or words. He plays with the day-to-day rules, codes and hierarchies that punctuate our existence: “I see two ways of creating a critical distance with the models that govern our daily lives: to oppose them with a new discourse in order to contradict them, or to follow their logic and drive it to absurdity. As an artist, I can but choose the second method. I do not want to expound learned theories on society or the media. You don’t need to show that you have read Mac Luhan in order to create a work. If I must fit into a history, it will be the history of art and the artists who have gone before me.” You think you’re slipping into automatic actions, but in fact you have entered a maze. The result can be surprising, the disappointment is calculated and the throb remains.