Critics’ Picks

Untitled (Girl), 2008, color photograph, 38 x 30".

New York

Sean Dack

Daniel Reich Gallery
Gallery is relocating
May 25–July 5

In capturing images mid-download and making unique photographic prints from the partially encoded results, Sean Dack reveals the poetics of a kind of chance cryptography. Their pixels frozen in flux, the images are neither fully present nor fully absent. The subjects (mostly girls and certain forms of postmodern architecture) are obscured, while the untranslated information—which appears as vibrant CMYK striations and geometric blocks—becomes the primary content. In Girl Next Door, 2008, a girl’s lips are the most legible part of the image; the rest is pretty much lost in noise. The print is so glossy that everything is reflected by its surface, yet the image hovers behind the pixelated blocks in a way that creates the illusion of depth. The effect is that of early video, reminding one, for example, of Derek Jarman’s cross-fades of boys and flowers in the video for the Smiths song “The Queen Is Dead” (1986). But in addition to a sense of longing, Dack’s images suggest obsolescence and a permanent loss of information. The feeling is heightened by four sculptures—nearly archaic stereo rack systems painted red, blue, or black—and by the 2007 photographs CCTV #2 and CCTV #3, which look like closed-circuit television shots rendered useless, though they actually depict, however obliquely, the Rem Koolhaas–designed building for China Central Television. “Future Songs,” an earlier project of Dack’s that is not exhibited here, consists of musical scores for Top 40 tunes paired with “predictions” by Philip K. Dick as lyrics. One of these works, 1995, 2007, tells of a time when “ordinary citizens” will be transformed into “information-processing experts.” In the current exhibition, titled “Ghost Hardware,” that time has come, and both the citizens and the hardware seem to have lost interest in processing.