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Kahn & Selesnick Are Back With More “Fictitious History” in New Book

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Collaborative artists Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick are known for works that use photography and other art forms to create fictitious histories. Now they’re on Kickstarter with Dr. Falke’s Oraculum, described as “a book of images and text for augury and bibliomancy.”

Or, as they elaborate, it’s “a travelogue, a bibliomancy oracle, an absurdist meditation on our current age, a handbook for the nervous prognosticator, a box of prints to frame or use as wallpaper, a shufflable feast for fools and mummers.”

You can think of it as being akin to a tarot card deck, but in the form of a book with staged photography. The book is unbound, so pages can be shuffled and selected at random in the manner of a card deck. Each photo is accompanied by explanatory text.

Is it steampunk? Obviously that’s in the eye of the beholder, but “steampunks love us,” Kahn says.

The Oraculum is part of a series about Truppe Fledermaus, a fictitious cabaret troupe “who catalogue their absurdist attempts to augur a future that seems increasingly in peril due to environmental pressures and global turmoil,” in the words of the artists.

Photos in the book depict the troupe in a variety of landscapes, such as Fogo Island off the coast of Newfoundland. There, the troupe was portrayed by members of the Nomadic School of Wonder, a group of artists, designers, and others who create themed travel experiences. Other locations include Cape Cod and the Ireland coast.

The book is a follow-up to Tarot of the Drowning World, an oracular card deck in the style of Tarot of Marseilles. That project raised nearly $140,000 in a Kickstarter campaign launched in March.

Solo art exhibitions featuring Truppe Fledermaus have been shown at galleries in Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Los Angeles, and New York City.

The latest Kickstarter campaign launched July 14 and has far exceeded its US$12,500 fundraising goal. It runs through Aug. 13. See the Kickstarter page and the artists’ website for more info.

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