Filmmaker Mark Anthony Green Talks 'Fair Use Vol. 1' Project + Other Black Ass Things
The ways we archive blackness should be as dynamic, infinite and mutable as blackness itself. The way we preserve blackness should also be as dynamic, infinite and mutable as the domination that may seek to make blackness vanish.
In some of my most mundane hours of thinking about culture, I think about all that we don’t know. I think about how in genocides, the library and the museums are often the first things to be burned to the ground; there is evil in genocide, but there is a tortured cruelty that is unique when one lights a match to a library. This is not a mistake; once you erase the art and the wisdom of a people, you’ve erased a people successfully and entirely. You have a blank canvas, although bloody, to revise history and truth the way you most see fit. In these hours, I imagine they’d say, “That isn’t blackness. No, that’s a blank chalkboard for us to mark white discoveries, histories and ideas on.” Peep game.
At about 10 p.m. at night, there was a website link with no explanation dropped into the most sacred place on my phone which is my text message inbox. Usually, skeptical and curious, I clicked the link without asking for much explanation. It directed me to Mark Anthony Green’s website that held a video called “Fair Use Vol. 1”. I clicked the link. What I saw was a compilation of some of the most esoteric and viral moments in black culture, side by side, begging to be turned into a narrative, but forcing no conclusion onto you. It was a noir psychedelic, an ebony-drenched DMT trip; I arrived back from the trip more sound and curious in my blackness.
The creator of “Fair Use Vol. 1,” which has recently been featured in this year’s Art Basel, is 28 year-old Mark Anthony Green who is a writer for GQ Magazine and an artist that graduated from Morehouse. I got the chance to take a peek into his mind and ask him questions about his process, the importance of archiving black moments and the state of blackness today, you know, light work.
Okayplayer: “Fair Use Vol. 1” does a lot of things well, but one of the things it has done most well, to me, is show the diversity in blackness. What do you think is the function of displaying a diverse set of ways blackness can exist?
Mark Anthony Green: I don’t think I really understood the depths of blackness’s diversity until I went to Morehouse, which is kind of ironic, considering it’s an all-black, all-male school where everyone is relatively the same age. But it was just as diverse as any college or university. I think it’s important to celebrate blackness—all blackness. So, though it may seem like there’s a universe between Juvenile‘s “Back That Ass Up”and Stokely Carmichael talking about white liberals, there really isn’t. It’s all black. And it’s all important.
OKP: The reoccurring clip of James Brown’s interview was a continuous thread throughout the film. When asked the cause of “all of this trouble,” he sings “living in America.” I took this as a more global and political statement. I am curious, in your imagination, on a more personal and intimate level, what is troubling you?
MAG: Well, I’m not stoked about [Donald] Trump. And by not stoked I mean depressed, infuriated and terrified. So, I’d start there [laughs]. I don’t know, man. I didn’t really want to focus on the negative stuff. I started making this in April—it released in November. I wanted to make something that made people—all people, black, white, orange—proud. I’m so proud to be a black man, “Living in America,” but it’s tough sometimes. Folks like Bill O’Reilly don’t make it easy. Nor do people like Clarence Thomas. So, it’s complicated, but it’s beautiful. And I really hope I did that—make something that highlights exactly how beautiful black America is.
OKP: The film reminded me of visual essays of the late ’80s and early ’90s by people like Essex Hemphill and Marlon Riggs. Who were your inspirations while putting together this project?
MAG: That’s such a compliment. Honestly, I’m inspired by the people around me the most. My business partner, Warren; my girlfriend Sinead, the boys I coach in basketball; my mother who is tiny and militant and pretty awesome. When something bad happens, say the millionth police shooting this year, they’re the first people I talk to. So when I make anything, it’s them I’m thinking about.
OKP: I described the film as a black psychedelic pill, an ebony-version of a DMT trip. What was your hope for the film as you were creating it and what was your hope for the film as you saw it to completion?