At first glance Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick’s photographs depict a faraway planet: vast, jagged, and anagogic. This realm is populated with female alien forms, futuristic contraptions, and fragments from an undisclosed civilization. But take another look, and this world begins to appear as a planet not so distantly removed from our own. Each photograph serves as a kind of mirror running parallel to Earth: familiar rock formations, flying blimps, and the joy of children who appear throughout the series provide a window into a sci-fi fantasy world. Scroll down for a slideshow of their work.
"(Detail) Abandoned Oxygen Field"
NASA commissioned one of the duo's works, titled, "Glider," and the material of Mars: Adrift on the Hourglass Sea is drawn from photographs taken by Mars rovers as well as landscapes in Southern Utah, Nevada, Death Valley and Cape Cod. In this way, the artists mix science and science fiction in thought-provoking ways. In an e-mail interview with The Huffington Post, the duo extrapolated on the many themes of their latest sci-fi series: “One of the themes in the project is the idea of geological time, that our two explorers are somehow adrift in time, seeing Mars in vastly different time periods, perhaps in the future, perhaps in the past.”
This theme of time is not new for Kahn and Selesnick, who have been collaborating since 1988. From their reinterpretation of America’s first moon landing in Apollo Prophesies, to their series City of Salt that imagines an alternative reality inspired by Italo Calvino’s writings and their own musings, Kahn and Selesnick have always played with alternative notions of time. “When we look back at the projects we’ve worked on, a very common theme is that they are set in times and places where contexts have generally been either destroyed or rebuilt or re-aligned,” they noted in a previous interview.
"Glider" appeared in "NASA/ART: 50 Years of Exploration," a book about NASA's art program.
Whichever dream they are pursuing -- wishful, wistful, nightmarish, or extraterrestrial -- these artists are also planted on terra firma. Still, there remains something ineffable about these images. Forms that seem both alien and human traverse a stark landscape, replete with odd shapes and figurations. We may travel with them, or refuse their invitation: either way they pull at us, pointing us toward another realm of time and dream. It is not surprising that the duo was inspired by Edmund Burke’s quote, “Terror is in all cases the ruling principle of the sublime."
See a slideshow of their work below, and let us know your thoughts in the comments section: