The fall of the Roman empire, and the infamous Barbarians from outside its borders who played such an important role in its decline and transformation are reimagined and rebooted through the visual language of YouTube and freestyle rap videos in this series.
The barbarian hordes and their leaders, whose unique voices and perspectives history and illiteracy failed to preserve, embody struggles which we may recognise as contemporary in their continued relevance and urgency. At the same time, we question the efficacy and possibility of recreating history in our own image. As a space for exaggeration and parody emerges, we can see with fresh eyes history for what it really is: A mirror with which to re-examine our current moment all the more clearly.
Three famous “barbarians” appear in this work: Attila the Hun, Alaric the Visigoth, and Theodoric the Ostrogothic king of Italy. In addition, an extra character, known as “The historian”, occupies a meta-level within the work and speaks to the political role of history and myth-making.
These characters existed at a moment of massive change. Migration and the breaking down of borders may have earned them the title of “barbarians” thanks to history. Yet it is to such “barbarians” that we owe the genesis of modern Europe today as we know it.
The work consists of four separate videos in which each character raps a text. Lyrical content alludes to actual events mentioned in historical sources (Priscus, Gibbon, J.B. Bury etc) as well as stylistic allusions to grime and hip hop. Furthermore, each “barbarian” betrays different textual and musical influences, not only in their performance of the texts, but also in the samples used in the beats. Alaric’s beat nods to Byzantine chant and Roll Deep; traces of slew Dem Crew’s style as well as Mongolian folk music can be heard with Attila. Meanwhile Theodoric betrays a predilection for classic Wu tang beats and Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s delivery, while the historian is equal parts Mike Skinner and baroque harpsichord repose.