Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick

British and American, both b. 1964

Currency Balloon, from Eisbergfreistadt, 2008
Archival pigment print

Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick create large panoramic photographs that merge realism and fiction, humor and fantasy. Inspired by the history of polar exploration and the majesty of the Arctic, the artists created the installation Eisbergfreistadt to critique the greed associated with the causes of climate change.

In Eisbergfreistadt (Iceberg Free-State), the duo produced digitally manipulated photographs and artifacts to construct a complex historical narrative of an event that never occurred. Staged in post–World War I Germany, the work envisions a massive iceberg from Spitsbergen run aground on the coast. According to the artists’ account, “Some German scientists postulated that the heat from factory smoke may have caused abnormally high breakup of the Arctic ice pack that year.”

The iceberg soon becomes the site of offshore banking. The artists printed fake money, featured on the balloon and the explorer’s clothes, emblazoned with images of towering factories spewing smoke and texts that warn: To burn oil from Azerbaijan to Tibet puts the world on fire.”

In this work, Kahn and Selesnick connects early 20th-century industrial growth with climate change. The installation’s themes of profiteering and devouring natural resources reverberate strongly today.