Kahn & Selesnick

Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick are a collaborative artist team who have been working together since they met while attending art school at Washington University in St. Louis in the early 1980s. Both were born in 1964, in New York City and London respectively. They work primarily in the fields of photography and installation art, specializing in fictitious histories set in the past or future. These may include: documentary-style panoramic and square photographs that combine absurdist fantasy and bogus anthropology; elaborately crafted artifact, costumes and sculpture, often constructed of unlikely materials such as bread or fur, painting and drawings ranging from large scale works on plaster to pages of conceptual doodling. Kahn lives in Ghent NY, and Selesnick in Rhinebeck NY.
Their current work features the recreation of the Truppe Fledermaus's Memory Theatre of 1932 with its full complement of Batfolk, Greenmen, Rope-Slingers, and Death-Dancers in all their Carnivalesque glory. Kahn & Selesnick have participated in over 100 solo and group exhibitions worldwide and have work in over 20 collections, including the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Houston Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Smithsonian Institution. In addition, they have published 3 books with Aperture Press, Scotlandfuturebog, City of Salt, and Apollo Prophecies. Their most recent book, 100 Views of the Drowning World, is available now from Candela Books.

Photo of Kahn & Selesnick

Madame Lulu's Book of Fate (Rounds)


Kahn & Selesnick’s latest project “Madame Lulu’s BooKahn & 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?

Please note this is a selection from the entire series. More images are available upon request.



Madame Lulu's Book of Fate (Augury Drawings)


Madame Lulu's Book of Fate (Danse Macabre)


Truppe Fledermaus


Dreams of a Drowning World


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?



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?



Eisbergfreistadt


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



Scotlandfuturebog


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...



Flight


Resume

Nicholas Miles Kahn, b. 1964, New York

Richard Selesnick, b. 1964, London

Education

1986 BFAs, Washington University, St. Louis

SOLO EXHIBITIONS

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, Bost

2003 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

GROUP EXHIBITIONS

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