Spencer Garland on the visualization of milo's poetics

The world of music was graced last August with the new album who told you to think??!!?!?!?! from milo, aka Rory Ferreira, that further elaborates the artist's ever-expanding agency into creative streams of consciousness and commentary on society and culture. With the recent release of the visual for the lead-in track "poet (black bean)", director Spencer Garland generously took the time to discuss the poetics, authors, auteurs, activism, artists and arts that informed the multimedia meditations on literary cultural constructs (and more).

Watch the Spencer Garland-directed video for milo's "poet (black bean)".

Reflections on how the multidisciplinary work of Kerry James Marshall inspired the visual companion for "poet (black bean)".

 I can’t remember when I first learned about Kerry James Marshall, but I knew when I saw it there was something powerful about him and his work. I looked him up on Youtube, trying to find anything I could find on him, he’s unabashedly Black in the ivory tower that fine art often is. “Poet” was in development hell for half a year. At first I wanted to use black face paint to get the Marshall look. In actual testing I looked terrible so I scrapped that idea and the project went into limbo until I started experimenting in Photoshop, I did a still image first and liked how it seemed to marry Marshall and Kara Walker's style but then school started to catch up with me so I shelved it for a bit longer while i worked on catching up on assignments and some prop fabrication projects. Eventually I came back to the image and figured out how to do the effect in After Effects and so I decided to revisit the idea of recreating Black art now with a more stylized approach. It was a lot more minimalist than the original plan of having painted actors in an art museum. I think the final product came out better than expected.

Thoughts on how the literary works and activism from Malcolm X to Toni Morrison & many more have resonated through time and cultural evolutions, upheavals, to the art of yesterday, today and tomorrow.

The video is largely about contrast and the juxtaposition of ideas. The way Malcolm went about liberation is different than the way Baldwin, Morrison, Senghor, Aidoo and Fanon are all diasporic authors but their texts speak on different ideas and topics. The ending of the video was one of my favorites sequences of the piece. It was pretty improvisational; I was in my school’s library looking around for books that would contrast well with some books I had. My favorite juxtaposition was between A Raisin in the Sun and the works of Shakespeare. I rarely get to read Black literature for school, even in college. I think inserting the Hansberry piece in between the canonical Shakespeare works juxtaposes the uncompromising Blackness with the traditionally white standards of the literary canon. The motif of black and white contrasting is extended to book form.

In conversation with James Baldwin, image still courtesy of Spencer Garland.

In conversation with James Baldwin, image still courtesy of Spencer Garland.

Further meditations on poets, poetics & the search for truths, human rights & justice.

Coloring the canon is an important thing to me personally. I’m a proprietor of new Black narratives for film. I want to work across the breadth of art and not limit myself to only one lane and I want to explore all sorts of textures or aesthetics. I especially want to explore traditionally white spaces in film and insert my own blackness into them. There’s been a big push to diversify what Black characters experience in movies and I completely agree with that. Expressing Black pain is important, I touch on that, but I want to balance it with Black joy black love, and the whole spectrum of emotion. I personally don’t have any desire to make a Menace II Society, I’d rather make my interpretation of Close Encounters. That’s closer to who I am and where my interests are. I don’t want to make a slave movie even if it’s what audiences want to see and what studios look for in hiring Black talent. What I want to do with my brand lonervision is to allow a younger filmmakers, especially younger Black filmmakers, to express themselves their way. I wouldn't be me if I couldn't watch and make sci-fi. I know that goes the same for others with whatever draws them to create.

Image still from Spencer Garland's visual treatment for "poet (black bean)" by milo.

Image still from Spencer Garland's visual treatment for "poet (black bean)" by milo.

Challenges of poetics & art in today's current tumultuous international climate.

I’m glad that I had the ability to make a video for a song that so poignantly elaborates on the need for art especially in activism. Baldwin was right in the fact that the creators are those who speak for the voiceless and bring radical ideas to the forefront. It’s all building on top of what your forerunners made for you like how Ta-Nehisi Coates echoes Ralph Ellison in a similar way and Glasshead and Art Hoe Collective builds upon the works of the Black Audio Film Collective and BAM. 

Insights on what the future of poetics & art might be.

I think the future of Black art will be a continuation of diversity and developing new aesthetics. Jordan Peele impressed all of us with how good Get Out was. It's a horror masterpiece and a movie no one has ever seen before. He shifted the paradigm of Black popular film. Black Panther too.

Silhouetted visages, courtesy of Spencer Garland.

Silhouetted visages, courtesy of Spencer Garland.

Activists & artists that have also captured the collective imagination, as well as impacted aesthetic observations.

I love that Black weirdness is becoming accepted now. Look at Donald Glover. His whole career he made being nerdy and Black look cool and as someone who is nerdy and Black I respond to that. He was both Urkel and Stefan at the same time. The Black experience he talked about was closer to mine than that offered by Ice Cube. Both valid, but one is a reflection of me. Eric Andre, Thundercat, Lil Uzi Vert, and Erykah Badu are all doing their thing and it’s great; I’m trying to do the same with my own narrative.

Parting words of wisdom, caution, mantras & hope.

I just say be true to who you are and your creative vision. Trust yourself and the people around you. Build a network of like minded people. Create something that goes beyond traditional narrative and roles beyond the accepted mediocrity of a lot of art today.

Check out more of Spencer Garland's works via lonervision.

Milo's new album who told you to think??!!?!?!?! is available now via Ruby Yacht.