Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick have been collaborating as Kahn & Selesnick since 1988 on a series of complex photo-novellas and sculptural installations. Using staged photography to bring their narratives to life, Kahn & Selesnick’s projects frequently depict societies in deep crisis and moments of transition. Making use of discovered, invented, and forgotten histories, the artists often present a post-apocalyptic vision of the world, as they respond to, and sometimes presage, real world events.
The series Mars: Adrift on the Hourglass Sea (2010), features two female figures exploring a desolate alien landscape. They encounter detritus from previous inhabitants including pyramids, obelisks, giant balloons, and concrete boats. Comprising photographs taken by NASA’s Mars rovers and by the artists themselves in the Nevada and Utah deserts, the series has an inescapably surreal quality. The scenario we are presented with escapes concrete definition, as we are left wondering how these figures came to this place, and whether we are witnessing a post-apocalyptic environment or a utopian future. By combining references to various time periods, Kahn & Selesnick’s work forces us to reconsider the conception of time as a linear phenomenon. We are simultaneously confronted with the deeply familiar and the entirely fantastical, to disorienting yet playful effect.
Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick were born in 1964 in New York and London, respectively, gaining their BFAs from Washington University, St Louis in 1986. The duo have won numerous awards and grants, including the Pollock Krasner Foundation Grant (2015); the Leopold Godowsky Award, Photographic Resource Center, Boston (2009); and Green Leaf Award, Nobel Peace Center, Oslo (2007).
Their work has been exhibited in numerous international institutions including The Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York; MEWO Kunsthalle, Germany; Queensland Center for Photography, Brisbane; El Paso Museum of Art, Texas; and Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing. Their work is held in a number of major public collections including Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York; Los Angeles county Museum of Art; National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; and Houston Museum of Fine Arts, among others.