Arctic Superstar at the Village Voice

Poster for Arctic Superstar at Scandinavia House
Poster for Arctic Superstar at Scandinavia House

Last week, for the Village Voice, I interviewed the Sámi rapper, SlinCraze. Nils Rune Utsi, as he is bestter known in his tiny Arctic hometown of Máze, was in NYC for the U.N Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, a gathering of 1,200 indigenous people from around the world, where he was invited to play a concert. He also appeared at Scandinavia House, alongside Aili Keskitalo, the President of the Sámi Parliament of Norway, and Simen Braathen, the director of a documentary film about him, “Arctic Superstar.”

The story of Arctic Superstar began in New York, where, in 2013, Braathen produced a photo exhibition of Norwegian rappers and the places they represent. SlinCraze played his first NYC gig at the Mothership in Brooklyn afterward. “SlinCraze’s story stuck out to me,” Braathen told me, “because of his raw ambition, yet impossible starting point. Language is obviously important in rap, yet there he was rapping in a language that is considered endangered by UNESCO. And killing it!”

Utsi’s language is Northern Sámi, understood by only 20,000 people. Not only do Norwegians or Europeans or anyone else not understand Northern Sámi, but many Sámi people don’t understand it either.

As he told me: “There’s no numbers on how many Sámi people there are, because of a history of the Norwegian government trying to wipe out the Sámi language. A lot of kids, from at least two generations before me, learned that speaking Sámi is taboo. So they forgot the language. There’s no real numbers on how many people are actually Sámi, because a lot of people work really hard to hide it.”

I was reminded while speaking to him of an artwork I saw last year in the Stormen cultural centre in Bodø, Arctic Norway. By Edvine Larssen, who lives and works on the Lofoten islands, the piece comprises a found vintage photograph of a Sámi couple. The people in the photograph had scratched out their traditional Sámi footwear.

Edvine Larssen at Stormen. Photo by author.
Edvine Larssen at Stormen. Photo by author.

Why? Because at this time Norway had a policy of forced assimilation, known as Fornorsking, or Norwegianisation. Sámi traditions and clothing were banned, as were the Sámi languages, one of which SlinCraze is helping revitalise through his music.

Read my interview with SlinCraze here. And enjoy his thought-provoking video for Suhtadit (or, “fighting”).

 

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Lynda Benglis: Water Sources at Storm King Art Center

Lynda Benglis: Water Sources
Lynda Benglis: Water Sources

I was recently invited to attend a preview of a new temporary exhibition at Storm King Art Center, an open-air sculpture park in upstate New York.

In the Hudson Valley, about an hour north of New York City, Storm King sits on more than 500 acres of rolling hills, fields, and woodlands, and is home to a collection of more than 100 large-scale sculptures by artists including Alexander Calder, Maya Lin, Louise Nevelson, Isamu Noguchi, Claes Oldenburg, and Richard Serra, David Smith.

Its two special exhibitions for the summer season are Lynda Benglis: Water Sources and Outlooks: Luke Stettner. With more than a dozen outdoor sculptures, as well as more inside the museum’s building, it is the first exhibition to display a major grouping of Benglis’s large-scale sculptures and fountains, which she has been producing since the early 1980s.

Lynda Benglis: Water Sources
Lynda Benglis: Water Sources

This piece, North, South, East, West, features a crustacean-like piece called Crescendo, which sits atop the very first water fountain she made in 1983-84 for the New Orleans World Fair (it was lost for a long time after the World Fair went bankrupt.)

The surroundings of her early life influence her work. Benglis grew up in Louisiana, always around water and a witness to oil spills in bayous.

Lynda Benglis: Water Sources
Lynda Benglis: Water Sources

This 2014 piece, named Pink Ladies, is inspired by a kite Benglis saw at a kite-flying festival in Ahmedabad, India. Benglis reminds us that pink is a natural colour, though we may not see it as such. The texture, she says, is inspired by the brain coral she sees on her frequent scuba diving trips.

Lynda Benglis: Water Sources
Lynda Benglis: Water Sources

Hills and Clouds, her most recent work, glows after dark. Natural phosphorescence, such as in bioluminescent waters and phosphorescent caves, in another of Benglis’ indfluences. She also cites the glow-in-the-dark displays at funhouses in the South that she visited as a child.

Storm King are offering special evening visits to see this piece glow in the dark. Even without the full effect, in a blazing hot June sun in my case, it is well worth the visit for the rare opportunity to see these pieces.

One World Observatory with Walks of New York

One World Observatory
One World Observatory

The One World Trade Center’s new observation deck has recently opened and I visited as part of a Walks of New York tour.

Led by local New Yorkers, these small group tours hone in on specific subject (say, photography) or neighbourhood (eg. the Lower East Side) and go deep, but not too deep–less facts and figures, more personal histories.

The main draw of Walks of New York’s WTC Tour & One World Observatory tour may seem to be the pre-reserved tickets to the observatory, but prior to entering the WTC the guide leads a fascinating two-hour tour of the surrounding area. I rarely visit this area myself, feeling there’s something not quite right about gawking around the disaster sites, but I was very glad to have taken this tour and to have learned a more personal side to the events of that day–and the weeks, months and years afterwards.

The tour began at St. Paul’s Chapel, New York City’s oldest public building, which, amazingly, was not damaged at all during the attacks. Even these 18th-century chandeliers were left intact.

St Paul's Chapel
St Paul’s Chapel

The church soon became a refuge for the rescue workers who couldn’t get home after their 12-hour shifts. Messages of support came in from around the world–including these cranes from Nagasaki and Hiroshima survivors.

St. Paul's Chapel
St. Paul’s Chapel

This bell was presented to St. Paul’s in solidarity from the Mayor of London.

St. Paul's Chapel
St. Paul’s Chapel

The new transit hub at Fulton Center has recently been completed.

Fulton Center
Fulton Center

The mix of old and new architecture in Lower Manhattan is striking. This is the Woolworth building, completed in 1913, parts of which are being developed into luxury apartments.

Woolworth Building
Woolworth Building
Woolworth Building
Woolworth Building

Speaking of luxury apartments, here is “New York by Gehry,” the tallest residential tower in the Americas.

Frank Gehry
Frank Gehry
Modern and Romanesque
Modern and Romanesque

Santiago Calatrava’s World Trade Center Transit Hub is years overdue and millions of dollars over budget. Still, here’s a look at the Oculus in construction.

The Oculus in construction
The Oculus in construction

And the PATH station’s Platform B.

PATH Station at WTC
PATH Station at WTC

Brookfield Place, when it was called the World Financial Center was terribly damaged on 9/11. The Winter Garden, which had all the windows blown out, has been beautifully restored and has been expanded to hold a variety of great food vendors, including Le District, a kind of French Eataly.

Brookfield Place
Brookfield Place
The Oculus from Brookfield Plaza
The Oculus from Brookfield Plaza
Waterfront Plaza
Waterfront Plaza
Memorial
Memorial

So to the observatory. Super high-speed elevators whisk visitors 102 floors up in about 40 seconds. During that brief time, video screens inside the elevators show a CGI timelapse of New York City history–the landscape of Lower Manhattan from the year 1500 until today. It was one of my favourite parts.

Then, upstairs you are obliged to watch a bit of a kitschy video celebrating NYC before the screen goes up to reveal the skyline to cheers from the crowd.

Thankfully that is the only cringey part of the experience and you are then left alone to wander the observation deck and take in the 360-degree views at your leisure.

One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory

Thanks to Walks of New York for hosting me on their tour.

My Favourite Street Art of 2014

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Stinkfish in Malmo. October 2014.
Toxicomano in Bogota. September 2014
Toxicomano in Bogota. September 2014
Abey Charron in San Juan. November 2014.
Abey Charron in San Juan. November 2014.
Hero de Janeiro in Amsterdam. October 2014.
Ottograph/Hero de Janeiro in Amsterdam. October 2014.
Icy and Sot in Brooklyn. July 2014.
Icy and Sot in Brooklyn. July 2014.
Shepard Fairey in Miami. June 2014.
Shepard Fairey in Miami. June 2014.
Tatiana Fazlalizadeh in Manhattan. March 2014.
Tatiana Fazlalizadeh in Manhattan. March 2014.
Icy and Sot in Brooklyn. October 2014.
Icy and Sot in Brooklyn. October 2014.
Artist ? Baltimore. April 2014
Artist ? Baltimore. April 2014
Swoon in Manhattan. September 2014.
Swoon in Manhattan. September 2014.
Bastardilla in Bogota. September 2014.
Bastardilla in Bogota. September 2014.
Collaboration. Malmo. October 2014.
Collaboration. Malmo. October 2014.

 

 

Ragnar Kjartansson at the New Museum: Me, My Mother, My Father, and I

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In May 1975, Kjartan Ragnarsson and Guðrún Ásmundsdóttir shot a slightly schlocky love scene for Iceland’s first ever feature film, Morðsaga (Murder Story). As Guðrún, playing a bored housewife, fantasises about ripping off the shirt from Kjartan’s, playing a plumber, chest, she cries out: “Take me here, by the dishwasher!” Legend has it that the day after the scene was filmed, the performance artist Ragnar Kjartansson was conceived. Continue reading “Ragnar Kjartansson at the New Museum: Me, My Mother, My Father, and I”

Kara Walker: A Subtlety, at Domino Sugar Factory

By now, you’ve probably heard of artist Kara Walker’s massive installation at Domino Sugar Factory. So, in short: the 132-year-old sugar factory will be torn down this year to make way for (guess what) luxury condos — despite a high-profile campaign that fought to preserve the building. Continue reading “Kara Walker: A Subtlety, at Domino Sugar Factory”