Like to think of yourself as a connoisseur of the weird? Then you need to acquaint yourself, if you haven’t already, with the mysterious dreamlike visions of the artist team of Nicholas Kahn & Richard Selesnick. Inspired by Dada, Surrealism and the novels and plays of Samuel Beckett, self-proclaimed absurdists Kahn and Selesnick have been collaborating since they met while attending art school at Washington University in St. Louis in the early 1980s. They work primarily in the fields of photography and installation art, specializing in fictitious histories set in the past or future. Hudson’s Carrie Haddad Gallery has been a longtime champion of the duo’s creations, which Art + Design has described as “cautionary mythology.”
In addition to exhibitions and installations, the pair have already published three books with Aperture Press: Scotlandfuturebog, City of Salt and Apollo Prophecies. Their latest, 100 Views of the Drowning World, was issued by Candela Books in 2017, and will be the basis of their live presentation on Saturday, May 19 at Hudson Hall in the historic Hudson Opera House.
Against a backdrop of ecological decline, this memoir/travelogue follows Dr. Falke, Count Orlofsky and Madame Lulu, three members of an itinerant theatrical troupe known as the Truppe Fledermaus, as they perform in various locations in Europe, England, America and Japan. In these absurdist performances, often staged in nature with no audience, the Truppe members are as apt to commemorate the passing of an unusual cloud as to document their own attempts to flee the rising waters of a warming planet, or use black humor to comment upon the extinction of bats or other animals.
The book (monograph is perhaps a better word), whose physical design format is modeled on ukiyo-e series such as Hiroshige’s 100 Views of Edo, contains photographs of the Truppe, their travels and their performances with corresponding text narrating the images. It is the authors’ preference to have the pages of the book be loose and non-linear, so that readers can explore the images and story in any order they prefer. As the incidents related in the book are frequently based on the artists’ personal experiences and travels, the reader is led to speculate about the somewhat arbitrary manner in which we build narratives out of our own experiences. With each visit to this collection, the story is reimagined.
A reading of 100 Views of the Drowning World will begin at 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 19 at Hudson Hall, followed by a book-signing and reception with the authors. This event is free, but reservations are encouraged. For more information, phone (518) 822-1438 or visit http://hudsonhall.org. The Hudson Opera House is located at 327 Warren Street in Hudson.