Whats not to love about Mars and while the recent landing of the Curiosity Rover on Mars certainly has rekindled my excitement about the future images it’s going to release, Bert Ulrich at NASA’s Media Relations couldn’t wait. After he’d visited the Apollo Prophecies exhibition by artists Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick, the two were immediately approached and commissioned for a Mars Project using actual photo-mosaics of Mars taken by the NASA space rovers Spirit and Opportunity which they called Adrift on a Hourglass Sea …Kahn said of the project
“They [NASA] told us Mars is where we’re going to next and if you’re going to do this project we’d like you to do it about Mars,” . “We didn’t start thinking about mars until they told us to.”
The results are nothing short of outstanding, and is one exhibit I’d pay good money to go see, lets hope they come to the UK
Whilst the images from Curiosity will show us Mars in amazing Ultra-Hi-Detail, it wont show us what it would be like to send humans to Mars, yet Kahn & Selesnick have pictured this in a way no one ever has, their stunning photo-montages depict a vivid red Martian landscape populated by two astronaut women climbing rock, walking among the Martian ruins, and giving birth to children.
Here’s an extract from a conversation the artists had with Sarah Falkner called:
The Wonderful and frightening World of the Kahn & Selesnick
Kahn & Selesnick’s latest body of work, Adrift on the Hourglass Sea, set in a Martian landscape in part documented by NASA rovers, has just launched its premiere exhibit at Boston gallery Carroll and Sons; the project will continue to evolve over 20II with viewings planned for New York, Chicago, Brussels and beyond.
Kahn & Selesnick’s multimedia narrative projects frequently depict societies in deep crisis and transition, with recent settings being a quasi-Weimar Germany (Eisbergfreistadt) and a Middle Eastern region ablaze with colonial exploitation and violence (City of Salt). City of Salt’s concerns with culture clashes and imagery of burning towers were intuited shortly before the events in New York City of 9/ I I /0I and Eisbergfreistadt’s denizens scrambling to maintain a bourgeois facade amidst currency crises and environmental disasters were photographed a year before the American real estate bubble began to burst. Just a week before “Adrift” opened in Boston, in an interesting–and, in light of previous prescient Kahn & Selesnick work, perhaps troubling synchronicity, Stephen Hawking made the following comments to the web site Big Think, which were reported in the larger press to some ballyhoo:
“I believe that the long-term future of the human race must be in space. It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster on planet Earth in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand, or million. The human race shouldn’t have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet. Let’s hope we can avoid dropping the basket until we have spread the load… Our only chance of long-term survival is not to remain inward looking on planet Earth, but to spread out into space. We have made remarkable progress in the last hundred years. But if we want to continue beyond the next hundred years, our future is in space. That is why I’m in favor of manned, or should I say “personed, “space flight.”
Hawking’s self-correction in language regarding the gendering of space exploration is also firmly in sympathy with Kahn & Selesnick’s choice to populate the “Adrift” project solely with two women. We do not learn their names or how and when they came to Mars, but we observe their wanderings in the landscape which they make navigable and habitable with an amalgam of high-tech components retrofitted to found artefact’s and monuments that appear to be the remnants of a long-gone civilization. They seem to be outside of linear time–perhaps having escaped an Earth catastrophe and landing on Mars to find that its own history includes an apocalypse or perhaps having fled the red planet at the height of the Martian disaster only to return later in time and find their former home’s traces in the large stone acoustic devices d1at stand sentinel over bleak and infertile valleys, very like the Moai of Rapa Nui.
Kahn & Selesnick frequently invoke cyclical notions of time–The Apollo Prophecies is a Mobius strip of a narrative with American astronauts landing on the moon to find that Edwardian explorers have beat them to planting the flag of their homeland empire, and Scotland future bog invoked an ambivalently pre-or-post-industrial society barely able to keep their sheepskin-bedecked asses dry above the muck but at times able to navigate and augur with mystical and mechanical devices. With Adrift on the Hourglass Sea, Kahn & Selesnick once again deploy circularity and ambiguity in the service of disarming our contemporary delusions of linear progress, in the interest of dismantling our hubris.
The “Adrift” project contains large-scale panoramic photographs: varying-scale Martian artefacts including cast concrete, lead and tin boats, totemic figures and crystallized growths; and paintings and small-scale photographs. The photographs employ actual photo-mosaics of Mars taken by the NASA space rovers Spirit and Opportunity; desert landscapes in Nevada and Utah photographed by the artists; and WWI-era British Army structures photographed for Kahn & Selesnick by the artist Cathy Ward.