Kahn & Selesnick’s latest project concerns a fictitious cabaret troupe, the Truppe Fledermaus, who travel the countryside staging absurd and inscrutable performances in the abandoned landscapes beyond the town’s edge. To create this ‘Theater of Memory’, the Truppe are as apt to commemorate the passing of an unusual cloud as they are to be found documenting their own attempts to flee the rising waters of a warming planet, or using black humor to comment upon the mass extinction of bats or other animals. The original Memory Theatre, as conceived by Giulio Camillo, reduces the audience of the drama to a single member, placing them on stage at the center of the proscenium arch, whereupon they gaze out into the amphitheater, using the performance taking place there as a mnemonic device to deconstruct the world around us; in addition to using this concept address ecological themes, Kahn & Selesnick also use it as a metaphor for the manner in which seemingly inexhaustible quantities of information are disseminated to us in the modern world. Apocalyptic weather is documented to the point of extinction; we are bombarded by endless images of our own virtual lives, constantly rebroadcasted to us over our various devices. The Artists present their own version of this pictorial feed in the form of ‘100 views of the Drowning World’, a play on Japanese Ukiyo-e print series in which the central concept, that of a floating world of pleasure and beauty is inverted to become one that is in fact sinking into the marsh, a place where there are no famous scenes or actors, and one viewpoint becomes interchangeable with any other.
So the Truppe travel on, performing for nobody, advertising their performances through posters and handbills, performances that never happened, an endless preview reel for a mock-life that never was, for a film that does not exist. Within this nonexistent documentary, the viewer might also find a fragmentary memoir of Kahn & Selesnick’s own relationship, as told through lightly veiled doppelgängers and situations (is our world inhabited by any creatures other than doppelgängers or avatars?), offering a rare glimpse of the collaborator’s working life, and quite frankly, their neuroses and sometime disfunctionality! All this is presented as an incomplete novel-in-progress, perhaps found in the attic of the Memory Theater itself (is the author deceased?) that may either be enjoyed for its lush surfaces and visual inventiveness, or delved into at length, quite possibly at the viewer’s peril.