Kahn & Selesnick

Richard Selesnick and Nicholas Kahn have been collaborating as Kahn/Selesnick since 1988 on a series of complex narrative photo-novellas and sculptural installations. They were both born in 1964, in New York City and London respectively and both are British citizens. They met at Washington University in St Louis where they collaborated informally from 1982-86 as photography majors. After graduation and a couple of years of showing their art separately they migrated to Cape Cod, Massachusetts to work on an evolving series of projects, some painting based, some photo based, all involving fictional attributions, narratives and sculpture. Between 1988 and 1995 they worked on installations combining painted portraits on plaster panels, bread, honey and wax sculptures displayed in wooden ritual architecture. A residency at The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown Massachusetts helped them create an elaborate full-scale oaken chapel; Der Ruteloft des Betubten Bienenkaisers (The Rood-Loft of the Drunken Beekeeper) with 120 painted panels, all of heads in profile sprouting psychoactive plants from their mouths.

Tiring of working on painting locked up in a studio, they searched for a technique to better bring the narratives to life and returned to staged photography. Experimenting on Selworthy Beacon in Somerset, Englandthey found that shooting a 360 degree panorama could more faithfully create a truer, more cinematic sense of the place, while their manipulation of costume, props and period color would help them alter the sense of time. In 1996 their first big show of photographic panoramas, The Flight Series, was set in the Wessex area of Britain in the mid 1930s. The Royal Excavation Corps story was revealed through museological display cases filled with artifacts, historical documentation and actual photographs from a variety of real expeditions, which merged with the staged and costumed scenarios that were depicted on the heavily folded and inscribed sepia toned panoramas framed on the walls. Floating above the whole show were the two sets of ornithopter wings used by the R.E.C. to fly (with the notable help of hallucinogenic honey to assist in their belief that the flimsy wings might hold them aloft) lending the whole show a verisimilitude more suited for a traveling show of documentary history than the absurdist narratives that were on display.

In 1997 The Pavilion of the Greenman was first shown at the DecordovaMuseum just outside of Boston. This series of shallow focus profile portraits of the artists as Greenmen was shot with an 8 x 10 field camera. These were then displayed as an internally illuminated chapel roofed with leaves and with walled with the 27 glowing silver photographs printed on vellum. When blown up into four foot square silver prints the artists faces masked by the flowers and leaves glued on with honey had a fearsome pagan drama to them; accompanied by fabricated historical documentation of songs and fertility rituals of Somersetshire, they further melted the boundary between man and plant.

In 1998-99 The Circular River, the R.E.C. Siberian Expedition of 1945-46 continued the story of the R.E.C to its post-war conclusion. A seven-foot wide leather bound book held the 60 long sepia panoramas and 100 pages of text. Together they told the parallel stories of Peter Hesselbach, a lost German glider pilot gone native and the R.E.C.’s search for him among the Buryat Shamans of Northeastern Siberia. Objects purportedly loaned by the Novosibirsk Museum of Ethnography accompanied the show. The photographs were laser-color prints on cotton in an edition of five, but had the appearance of vintage folded panoramas, they were painstakingly collaged together by hand, stained and inscribed with the notes from the expedition.

In 2000 Kahn and Selesnick were Artists in Residence, at the Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts, where the larger crowd scenes for their post-apocalyptic whiskey-dark epic Scotlandfuturebog were shot. These were digitally combined 4x5 film shot on location on the Isle of Skye, the Beara Peninsula in Ireland along with the bogs of Cape Cod. The Computer was at last allowed into the studio to aid the artists bringing their future distopia to life. The panoramas were shown first as giclee prints on translucent Gampi rice paper up to 12 feet long and 2 feet high; these had an ephemeral silky materiality that suited their future-historical impossibility. Designed to resemble the artists hand bound version of the project, Aperture Press printed a limited edition boxed book with vellum gatefolds for Scotlandfuturebog, the design of which won the New York Book Show, best photography book of 2002.

In early 2001, a 2-month winter residency at Djerrasi Artist Program inWoodside, California facilitated the creation of a complex miniature city of salt-encrusted ceramic minarets and stupas that was set up on location inDeath Valley for Kahn/Selesnicks next project City of Salt. Unfolding in the vast deserts and lush oasis of an unnamed orientalist landscape and printed in the out of register tones of an archaic early color process, the stories of greed, oil and spiritual enlightenment echo the uneasy relationships of West and East in this time of perpetual war. The short parables that accompany the photos are a collaboration between Kahn/Selesnick and writers Sarah Falkner and Erez Lieberman. Aperture published City of Salt as a boxed limited edition monograph in 2005. The prints vary in size from 36” wide to 100” wide and are printed on cream-colored Arches cotton paper as archival digital prints.

An feature article on the artist’s collaboration at Phillips Andover in the New York Times lead to a 2002 semester long residency at Toni Morrison’s Atelier Program at Princeton University, allowing the artists to collaborate with the students on the genesis of the next Kahn/Selesnick project The Apollo Prophecies. Taking over 4 years to complete, the project slowly unfurls as an epic panorama telling the plight of a lost Edwardian English expedition to the Moon. One follows the lunar module through the panorama discovering NASA’s hidden story of how a settlement was found awaiting for them on the moon, how they were greeted as Gods, prophesied in great stone alignments, and heralded by a prophetic sacred text, before returning to earth with canisters of Moon Paste as evidence. The entire story is told in one immensely long seamless panorama, 10” high by 50 feet long in one version. It shot for the first time entirely digitally and printed in quad-tone black carbon inks on Hahnemuhle paper. An accordion book edition of theApollo Prophecies will be forthcoming from Aperture in October 2006 along with a special limited edition boxed set including a DVD of the movie Kahn/Selesnick shot on their version of the moon. The project also features a booklet with reproductions of all the drawings and portraits of the astronauts and lunar artifacts as well as the prophetic text (another collaboration with Erez Lieberman).

Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick do not employ armies of underpaid assistants, they instead improvise or build everything themselves. They also rely on an army of kind friends and relatives for their photographic models as well as for very frequent gifts of peculiar objects that often infiltrate their projects. They are currently attempting to find a lost iceberg city last seen off of Lubeck in 1923 and shooting an Expedition to Mars for NASA.

Photo of Kahn & Selesnick

Madame Lulu's Book of Fate

Kahn & Selesnick’s latest project “Madame Lulu’s Book of Fate” continues the adventures of the Truppe Fledermaus, a cabaret troupe of anxious mummers and would-be mystics who catalogue their absurdist attempts to augur a future that seems increasingly in peril due to environmental pressures and global turmoil. In this body of work, the artists also examine the notion of the carnivalesque - traditionally the carnival was a time when the normal order of society was upended and reversed, so that at least for a day the fool might become king, the sinner a priest, men and women might cross dress, and sacred ceremonies and normal mores are burlesqued and spoofed. During such brief times of anarchy, societal pressures were relieved by revealing their somewhat absurd and arbitrary natures. Costumes and masks were traditionally worn so that all people might have the same social status during the duration of the festival. The Truppe ask you to consider: is it the carnival that is upside-down, or perhaps the real world that it purports to burlesque?

Dreams of a Drowning World

Truppe Fledermaus

Memory Theater

Mars: Adrift on the Hourglass Sea

Mars: Adrift on the Hourglass Sea is Kahn and Selesnick’s first project to feature a female protagonist; a woman finds herself alone in a wasteland that appears to be Mars. It is uncertain how she arrived in this place, via spacecraft, through a fold in the spacetime continuum or perhaps the landscape is a mental projection. Either way, it is clear that she has escaped an unnamed catastrophe on Earth. In a series of hallucinatory episodes she simultaneously explores the planet and builds a mock-life for herself from a combination of hightech and stone-age materials. Mars is revealed to have ruined artifacts and monuments from a previous, or perhaps future, civilization. The remains of massive stone listening devices are littered about the landscape, leading us to wonder: is this a colony that has collapsed and lost touch with earth? How did its occupants become stranded? Or are these the nocturnal imaginings of a postapocalyptic survivor?


The creation of this principality was inspired by an actual incident in 1923 when a mammoth iceberg ran aground in the Baltic port of Lubeck, towering over the town and terrifying the populace. Many decided (not unreasonably) that the iceberg caps were melting and the apocalypse coming. This event inspired gloomy cafe songs and penny dreadfuls, even a deck of playing cards.

Many notegeld and inflationary currencies were issued for the Eisbergfreistadt. Manifestos were published, and posters put up declaring the state's new ideals, citizenship requirements, etc. Products started appearing: butter, lard, chocolate (of surprisingly high quality) etc, all stamped with the Eisbergfreistadt logo. Although the creation of the Eisbergfreistadt is an actual historical incident, it is not clear to what extent it actually existed.

The celecstial city depicted on the iceberg seems to owe as much to the spires of Freidrich, as to the halls of ValHalla - it is a place built by Rilkean angels, too perfect for human reality, that can only be intuited by the artist. The worldly goods of the Stadt are therefore in the context of a cruel joke ("you take art and I'll take spam"). Interestingly these apocalyptic fears proved prophetic - Lubeck was the first German city to be fire-bombed in World War II - and, despite being rebuilt, is in danger of flooding due to global warming.

The Apollo Prophecies

The Apollo Prophecies Project has been in development and production since 2002, when it was started at Toni Morrison's Atelier Program at Princeton University. Working with 15 students, Kahn/Selesnick built three major sculptural and architectural installation pieces, The Mind Rocket, Lunar Explorer and the Moon Cabinet.

A revelatory text was created in collaboration with a brilliant physics graduate student, Erez Lieberman. This text was altered by Kahn/Selesnick so that American and Russian Astronauts involved in the 1960's-70's Aquarian lunar expeditions became Gods for the Edwardian expedition members who were waiting for them in their Mind Rocket. Initial props and costumes were drawn and created.

This series features a continuous ten inch by thirty-six foot long black and white panoramic photograph depicting astronauts from the 1960’s traveling to the moon and back. While on the lunar surface they discover a lost Edwardian expedition that may or may not be real. It was shot and assembled on sets or on location with miniature models and live actors.

Kahn & Selesnick explain, "We are using the narrative techniques of Italian fresco cycles of the early Renaissance such as Masaccio’s Brancacci Chapel cycle. The story is told in multiple episodes featuring the same characters, appearing numerous times, within a single long panel. The use of this quasi-religious format echoes the concept of astronauts as gods. In addition to the long panoramic photograph there is a mass installation of small drawings and photographs. These feature Edwardian photographs of moon rocks, schematic drawings and design notes, portraits of astronauts, beaked and “debeaked” i.e. Edwardian and Aquarian, ephemera, etc."

The City of Salt

From The City of Salt, 2001

The city of salt now lies quietly on the flats; its formerly bustling alley ways are now destitute, its market places and squares. The construction took many years, but the king never once visited his dream city during this time, choosing to observe its progress from a distance as not to break the illusion that his city was unpeopled. Eventually the city was completed, but still the king waited; many wondered if he had forgotten about it entirely, or had lost interest in the fanciful notions of his youth. Unbeknownst to the general populace however, the king had already left for his city - he had waited for an evening remarkably similar to that evening during the time of the plague, and he had stolen away accompanied only by one faithful servant as a companion, who was to hold the king's horse outside the city gates.

It was a fine moonlit night, and the king felt ecstatic as they crossed the salt flats. How his city gleamed in the distance! But at a certain point during this journey, a creeping anxiety began to prey upon the king. Surely The dead city seemed to represent the crumbling of the mighty empire he had inherited and that had been put in his charge; within his swoon he found it hard to remember where its borders lay, whether it had prospered or foundered during his reign. It now seemed to the king that during his solitary night wanderings during the time of the plague he had become enraptured with the face of death

Looking about him, the king realized his companion was nowhere to be seen. More alarmingly, the capital, from which he had come, seemed to exactly resemble the dead city to which he was heading, so much so that Terrified that he might see the twin image of himself, the king attempted to close his eyes, only to find that they already were closed. Opening them, he again saw the dead city before him, now with a waking clarity, the only city that had ever existed - was it his past or future that had been stolen from him - the king wondered. Surely I died during the time of the plague, how vivid the deserted city looked to my dying eyes as I wandered it for the last time, I felt as a king amid the stinking silent alleyways, the beggar thought to himself.

All prints are archival pigment prints.

available sizes:

8 x 30 inches $2500 16 x 60 inches $5000


Every 30 million years, the sun's orbit around the core of the milky way causes the solar system to pass through the spiral arms of the galactic plane; within these arms, in contrast to the emptiness of deep space, lie the vast clouds of loose cosmic matter from which comets are born. Billions of these objects are captured by the sun's gravitational field during its oscillation through the spiral arms, ranging in size from the tiniest dust mote to objects the size of our own moon. In their inert state, between the outgassings that give the comet its distinctive tail, these can be some of the blackest objects in the solar system, reflecting as little as 4 percent of the sun's light. It was during one such period that the apocalypse took place. The collision happened almost without warning, the object having only been detected half an hour before impact. Astronomers at the obscure mountain observatory of ---- elected to say nothing. The comet crashed into the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, instantly sending half its volume into the atomsphere as water vapour, drowning those who did not succumb to earthquakes and tsunamis. Most of those who did survive, and they were few, were soon disheartened and died out, much in the way indigenous societies are devastated by the swift destruction of ways of life they have known for millennia. In any case, dense fogs rendered agriculture and hunting almost impossible. The exception were the bog dwellers of remote northern Europe. A hardy people, used to sodden atmospheric conditions and marginal existence, they hardly noticed the apocalypse.

Green Man

The Circular River : The Siberian Expedition 1944 / 46

The Circular River : The Siberian Expedition 1944 / 46 - 1998

In late 1942, former glider pilot and REC member Peter Hesselbach was reported missing in action during the Russian offensive that repelled the German Army back across the DnieperRiver. When The Corp's head, Gordon Bindon-Bhore, received the news he immediately assigned a team of psychics to search for Peter using an obscure technique called remote viewing. Several days later, an REC remote viewer named Tyler McWeeks became convinced that Hesselbach was still alive and lost wandering in the vast remote region of Siberia east of the IndigirkaRiver

A three man expedition consisting of Bindon MacRupert, Ian Brockman, and Gerrard Wescott was organized to travel to Siberia and attempt to rescue Peter; as a secondary objective they were to study indigenous tribal shamanism. On May 6th, 1944, the expedition was parachuted deep into Siberian tableland with several months worth of supplies, and a considerable quantity of barterable goods. However, by November the expedition, having never correctly gained its bearings, had failed to locate any tribal settlements and was on the verge of succumbing to the harsh Siberian winter

At this point the three men were dealt a miraculous stroke of luck - a passing Buryat shaman named Balog discovered the ailing men and single-handedly rescued them, dragging them down to the banks of the circular river where he nursed them back to health using medicinal herbs. Furthermore, he agreed to act as a guide and interpreter for the expedition. For the following nine months, the renewed expedition explored the tribal homeland of the Buryat, studying shamanic traditions and searching for Peter

They heard many stories of their friend; he had attained a sort of legendary status with the tribe, as the following entry from Ian Brockman's journal indicates: Peter had come to a village where the natives had never seen white men. Wanting to make a good impression, he had apparently mystified his audience with his miraculous powers. First, with great panache he yanked out his teeth; then to even greater astonishment he pulled out an eye, producing wails and screams from the crowd

The Buryat inquired if all white men entertained these skills, and could he please remove his arms and legs. They were obviously unaware of such Western niceties as glass eyes and false teeth. We heard many different versions of the take-apart white devil story. Eventually, the expedition received definitive evidence of Peter's whereabouts from a Buryat family Peter had apparently married into; he had traveled deep into the marshes where the circular river originated to fulfill his destiny, to become a shaman. If the expedition could find the sacred thermal pool known to the Buryat as the "Navel of the World" they would surely find him there, transformed into a God...

Loose 6 x 72 inch Prints from Circular River



Nicholas Miles Kahn, b. 1964, New York

Richard Selesnick, b. 1964, London


1986 BFAs, Washington University, St. Louis


2015 Dreams of the Drowning World, Robischon Gallery, Denver

Dreams of the Drowning World, Schoolhouse Gallery, Provincetown, Ma.

Dreams of the Drowning World, Carrie Haddad Gallery, Hudson, NY

Truppe Fledermaus, SUNY Ulster, Stoneridge, NY

Truppe Fledermaus, Millbrook School, Millbrook, NY

Truppe Fledermaus, St. Andrew’s School, Middletown, DE

2014 Truppe Fledermaus, Jackson Fine Art, Atlanta

Truppe Fledermaus, Hammer Gallery, Chicago

Truppe Fledermaus, Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York

Truppe Fledermaus, Carroll & Sons, Boston

2013 Mars: Adrift on the Hourglass Sea, Boise Art Museum, Boise, Id

Truppe Fledermaus, Cleveland State University, Cleveland

Truppe Fledermaus 2, Schoolhouse Gallery, Provincetown, Ma.

Truppe Fledermaus, Gallery 51, North Adams, Ma

Mars: Adrift on the Hourglass Sea, Galeria Mü, Bogata, Columbia

Truppe Fledermaus, Kopeikin Gallery, Los Angeles

Truppe Fledermaus, Robischon Gallery, Denver

2012 Truppe Fledermaus, Schoolhouse Gallery, Provincetown, Ma.

2011 City of Salt, Galeria Mü, Bogata, Columbia

Apollo Procephies & Mars: Adrift on the Hourglass Sea, Brenau University

Mars: Adrift on the Hourglass Sea, Carrie Haddad Photo, Hudson, NY

Mars: Adrift on the Hourglass Sea, Kopeikin Gallery, Los Angeles

Mars: Adrift on the Hourglass Sea, Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York

Mars: Adrift on the Hourglass Sea, Carl Hammer Gallery, Chicago

Apollo Procephies & Mars: Adrift on the Hourglass Sea, Museum of

Contemporary Photography, Chicago

2010 Mars: Adrift on the Hourglass Sea, Carroll & Sons Gallery, Boston

Kahn and Selesnick Cress Gallery, University of Tennessee, Chattanooga

Eisbergfreistadt & Other Fictions Torch Gallery, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Eisbergfreistadt Overbeck-Gesellschaft Museum, Lübeck, Germany

2009 Eisbergfreistadt World’s End Contemporary, London, UK

Eisbergfreistadt DNA Gallery, Provincetown, Ma.
Eisbergfreistadt, Robishcon Gallery, Denver, CO

Eisbergfreistadt, Kopeikin Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

Eisbergfreistadt & Apollo Prophecies, Kohler Art Center, Sheboygan, WI

Eisbergfreistadt & Apollo Prophecies, Untitled [ArtSpace], Oklahoma City, OK

2008 Eisbergfreistadt, Carl Hammer Gallery, Chicago

The Apollo Prophecies, Hiestand Gallery of Art, Miami University, Ohio

Eisbergfreistadt, Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York

Eisbergfreistadt, Lisa Sette Gallery, Scottsdale

Kahn & Selesnick: A Ten Year Retrospective, Aeroplastics Gallery, Brussels

2007 Eisbergfreistadt, Pepper Gallery, Boston

Eisbergfreistadt, Irvine Contemporary, Washington DC

2006 The Art of Kahn and Selesnick, Dowd Fine Arts Center, SUNY Cortland

Kahn/Selesnick: A Ten Year Retrospective, Robischon Gallery, Denver

2005 The Apollo Prophecies, Carl Hammer Gallery, Chicago

The Apollo Prophecies, Irvine Contemporary, Washington, D.C.

The Apollo Prophecies, Lisa Sette Gallery, Scottsdale

The Apollo Prophecies, Paul Kopeikin Gallery, Los Angeles

Nomadischespuppetheater, Berta Walker Gallery, Provincetown

2004 The Apollo Prophecies, Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York

The Apollo Prophecies, DNA Gallery Provincetown

The Apollo Prophecies, Pepper Gallery, Boston

  1. City of Salt, Focus Gallery, London

City of Salt, Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York

2002 Scotlandfuturebog, Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York

City of Salt, Paul Kopeikin Gallery, Los Angeles

City of Salt, Carl Hammer Gallery, Chicago

City of Salt, Pepper Gallery Boston

City of Salt, Lisa Sette Gallery, Scottsdale

2001 City of Salt, DNA Gallery, Provincetown

Scotlandfuturebog, Carrie Haddad Gallery, Hudson, New York

2000 The REC, Past-Future, Palo Alto Arts Center, California

Schottensumpfkunftig, DNA Gallery, Provincetown

Past and Future, Lisa Sette Gallery, Scottsdale

Transmissions from the Schottensumpfkumpftig, David Beitzel Gallery, New York

1999 Schottensumpfkunftig, Pepper Gallery, Boston

The Circular River, Paul Kopeikin Gallery, Los Angeles

1998 The Circular River, Monique Knowlton, New York

The Circular River, Eli Marsh Gallery, Amherst College

Bachelier Cardonsky Gallery, Kent, Connecticut

Carrie Haddad Gallery, Hudson, New York

The Circular River, Pepper Gallery Boston

1997 The Pavilion of the Greenman, Monique Knowlton, New York

The Burren Expedition, East End Gallery, Provincetown

The Journals of Peter Hesselbach, Monique Knowlton, New York

Tent of the Mesmer, Gallery Camino Real, Boca Raton

The Photographic Journals of Peter Hesselbach, Pepper Gallery, Boston

1996 Tent of the Mesmer, Bachelier Cardonsky Gallery, Kent, Connecticut

The Golden Age of Devonshire Semaphore: Royal Excavation Corps Signal Flag

Manouevres 1934-36, East End Gallery, Provincetown

The Roodloft of the Drunken Beekeeper, Monique Knowlton, New York

1995 Zelt der Biscuit Mench, East End Gallery, Provincetown

Chapel Dedicated to the Human Head, Hudson Walker Gallery, Provincetown. Collabrative Paintings, Gallery Camino Real, Boca Raton

1994 The Eskimo Paintings, Bachelier Cardonsky Gallery, Kent, Connecticut

The Biscuit Triptychs, East End Gallery, Provincetown

1993 Bog Pastries and Bread Heads from the Archives of the Royal Excavation Corps,

Forum Gallery, New York

Painted Heads, East End Gallery, Provincetown

The Delusional Object: Banners and Artefacts from the Royal Excavation Corps, Diana Burke, New York

1992 Flagman Artefacts, East End Gallery, Provincetown

1991 East End Gallery, Provincetown

Owen Patrick Gallery, Philadelphia

Klein Art Gallery, Woodstock


2015 Shimmering Substance: Pollock-Krasner Grantees from the Hudson Valley, Woodstock, NY

2014 Alles Maskerade! MEWO Kunsthalle, Memmingen, Germany

Breaking Ground William & Mary College, Williamsburg, Virginia

Icarus: an Exploration of the Human Urge to Fly UNC Charlotte

Uncanny Spaces Usdan Gallery, Bennington College

Dawn to Dusk, Queensland Center for Photography, Brisbane, Australia

Vanishing Ice, Whatcom Museum, Bellingham, Wa

Vanishing Ice, El Paso Museum of Art, El Paso, Tx

Vanishing Ice, Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Canada

2013 Extraordinary, Nooderlicht Photo Festival, The Netherlands

Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: An Artists Guide to the World, Florence Griswold

Museum, Old Lyme, Ct

First Contact, Gallery Project, Ann Arbor, Mi.

Lies that Tell the Truth: Magic Realism in Contemporary Art, Indiana State

University, Terra Haute, In

Natures Toolbox: Biodiversity, Art, and Invention, The Leonardo, Salt Lake City

Natures Toolbox: Biodiversity, Art, and Invention, Ulrich Museum, Wichita, Ka

2012 Covet: Art + Objects, Ferrin Gallery, Pittsfield, Ma