“'To represent where you come from' has been at the heart of hip-hop since the culture first started in the Bronx, NY in the late '70s. So what happens when hip-hop finds its way overseas to the faraway fjords of Norway, a country monumentally diferent from that of it's origin? Hip-hop truly changed our lives and this is our way of showing gratitude to the city where it started” - Martin Rustad Johansen and Simen Braathen. Viking rappers takes an interesting look at the culture around Norwegian hip-hop, and shows scenes that are at once foreign and familiar. Familiar clothing and styles, albeit from 10 years ago, gang signs are flashed, and jewelry glistens. All these norwegian rappers have a passion for the US, as thats where hip-hop started, so they emulate their predecessors to some extent.
Insulting as it is I immediately thought the novel(or the movie) Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran-Foer and the ridiculous character of Alex; wearing head to toe Adidas and a furry hat speaking broken hip-hop slang because he thought it was cool. But these people are serious, as the film that played in the back showed us; rapping in Sami (the indigenous language of Norway) is a way to keep the language alive, and thousands of people are genuinely responding to it. It's the New York cynicism that does not allow New York culture outside it's borders without making fun of it a little.
However the interesting thing about the exhibition was not how the subjects emulated New Yorkers, but how Norwegian the whole thing was. The rappers pose outside of small european cars, and my person favorite piece entitled The Hood showed beautiful fjords. The photographs are mostly posed pictures showcasing the rappers, but there are crowd shots, huge swelling crowds, you can almost smell the body odor looking at the picture. Both Braathen and Johansen have good eyes for catching candid moments of these people who are super stars in their own part of the world. This exhibition makes sense because it takes place in New York City, this exhibition confounds because the place and the people are so foreign to us. It's a cycle by seeing these pictures we are informed and influenced by how informed and influenced they have been by New York.
Review by John Hutt