City of SaltPhotographs by Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick
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City of Salt is the second volume—followingScotlandfuturebog (Aperture, 2002)—in an extraordinary trilogy by Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick. The pair have been collaborating for over a decade to create evocative, multilayered fictions. They start by conceiving an alternative reality, then construct finely detailed three-dimensional miniatures and dioramas to give it physical form. Using digital photography, they then position elaborately costumed actors within this imaginary world.
In City of Salt, their stunning panoramic photographs are juxtaposed with compelling narratives inspired by traditional Sufi tales, the writings of Italo Calvino, and the artists' own existentialist parables. Divided into five chapters—Book of Sand, Book of Fur, Book of Musk, Book of Tea, and Book of Salt—the book explores an illusory desert land and chronicles the experiences of its diverse inhabitants. Poetic and perplexing, the staged scenes conjure up a mythical Middle Eastern civilization, set in an indeterminate past somewhere between pre-urban and postcolonial. Originally conceived in the late 1990s, the project took on darker hues following the events of September 11.
NICHOLAS KAHN and RICHARD SELESNICK, born in New York City and London, respectively, have been collaborating since 1986. They have exhibited internationally, and their work is in the collections of the Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts; Brooklyn Museum; Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Philadelphia Museum of Art; and the Smithsonian Institution, as well as many private collections. Residents of the New York region, they are represented by Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York; Pepper Gallery, Boston; Paul Kopeikin Gallery, Los Angeles; Lisa Sette Gallery, Scottsdale, Arizona; Irvine Contemporary, Washington, D.C.; and Carl Hammer Gallery, Chicago.