Part Ophelia reference, part global warming allegory, “Dreams of the Drowning World” continues an ominous, absurdist project from the prolific collaborative duo Kahn & Selesnick, with images on view at Carrie Haddad Gallery in Hudson, New York until February 14, part of a wide-ranging group show. The prints depict characters from Kahn & Selesnick’s larger “Truppe Fledermaus” series, which they began in 2012. Floating in dark water among flowers and leaves, skulls and vegetables, the submerged subjects, like Ophelia, who was “incapable of her own distress,” seem unaware of the water’s danger. In other images, water rises to the knees of a woman holding a lamb or a man with a horn whose suitcase threatens to float away, but neither seem especially distressed.
The series is latest part of a string of longterm, elaborate projects imagining fantastical worlds, which the pair have created and photographed since the 1980s. Pulling from fairytales, sci-fi and art history, they explore ideas about philosophy and environmentalism in images that are equal parts historical and futuristic. In an interview, Nicholas Kahn describes the idea behind “Truppe Fledermaus”: “It is a convoluted tale of an troop of actors and performers, that evolved out of our earlier project Eisbergfreistadt, set in 1923 Lubeck Germany. So we assume the troop is German, they seem to enter various sectors of the countryside and post posters inviting whoever or whatever sees the posters to come to their performances, which are always deep in nature.” The series in its entirety includes the posters the troop makes, sculptures of its characters, videos and drawings, along with more than 100 photos. This chapter, “Dreams of the Drowning World,” could be read as the end for the troop, one last record of their message. “We luckily have the photographs the troop recorded and it seems the performances were tales of environmental devastation and warnings a rising tide,” says Kahn.
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