The Surprisingly Celestial “While You Are Surfing”

By Charlotte Kinberger

Who’d have known that grease left behind by fingers on a touch screen phone could yield striking, celestial images? It might be hard to believe, but a new show at FIVE ELEVEN, which opened last fall and occupies a tiny chunk of glass-fronted Chelsea real estate, has on display exactly that. For its second show, the gallery is exhibiting a collection of works by Turkish photographer and architect Arslan Sukan.

“While You Are Surfing” (the Internet) is the artist’s first gallery show in New York, and features ten inkjet prints mounted on aluminum with rich black backgrounds and bright white, cool blue, Kelly green, and plum smudges that look more like galaxies than oily fingerprints. But indeed, they are exactly that. The artist scans the surfaces of iPhones, and then manipulates the resulting images to enhance the dust, grime, and cracks left behind by our fingers. The results are stunning and idiosyncratic, reliant on the particular gestures and chemical balance of each individual. They connect menial everyday action, the ubiquity of technology, and the vast layout of the physical world, questioning whether our regular use of and interaction through these devices is any less valid or immediate than the stars.