City Paper is not for tourists
Stephen Colbert would love the work of duo Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick: The artists are known for large-scale photographs that tell historical tales possibly based on true events—or, if untrue, that still seem believable. In previous exhibits, Kahn and Selesnick have explored the lunar landing, a lost city in Siberia, and a bog colony in Scotland. Baltic Germany is the setting for the pair’s latest fantasy, “Eisbergfreistadt” (which translates to “Iceberg Free State”). In 1923, the story goes, an iceberg crashed into the town of Lübeck, terrifying the population and triggering fears that the apocalypse was imminent. In Kahn’s and Selesnick’s version of history, the citizens of Lübeck decide to inhabit the iceberg, creating a new state with citizenship requirements, laws, and much-inflated currency. Though the pair’s previous exhibitions have mostly been comprised of antique-looking photographs, “Eisbergfreistadt” gets a history-museum treatment, complete with artifacts supposedly extracted from the scene of the iceberg (Kahn and Selesnick are mum on the issue of what happened to the society, which may have disappeared into the sea as the iceberg melted). So, in addition to the photographs of citizenry paddling canoes and playing cards while wearing animal costumes, viewers can see a 50-million bank note of Eisbergfreistadtian Notgeld, a Bauhaus-style men’s suitcoat, and a couch stuffed with money. (Inflation is a predominant theme of the exhibit.) As for real-life Lübeck, still a major German shipping port on the Baltic, its Gothic castles are at risk of slipping into the sea: Due to global warming and melting icebergs, the city is constantly at risk for floods, lending Kahn and Selesnick’s apocalyptic display plausibility. The exhibition opens Saturday, Oct. 27, and is on view from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, to Saturday, Dec. 8, at Irvine Contemporary, 1412 14th St. NW. Free. (202) 332-8767.