Notes on Black Video: 1987–2001

Emily Martin

This essay was written by Emily Martin to accompany the VDB TV online program, Notes on Black Video: 1987–2001. Featuring work from Lawrence AndrewsThomas Allen Harris, Leah (Franklin) GilliamTony Cokes, and Art Jones, the program acts as a thematic survey of black video work from 1987–2001 highlighting work that demonstrates a practice of early (and continuous) black videomaking that intuitively relies on discursively approaching the mass image and popular culture, structures of meaning/knowledge, and the limitations of perception and what it seeks to render definable and concrete, through the amorphous, fluid perspectives present in the intersectional black American experience.

The works featured in the program are considered within the historical context of the period in which we can highlight the rise in mass incarceration, the increasing documentation of police brutality in the media (Rodney King), a solidification of hip-hop and rap cultures, and the political and social aftermath of the demise of the black power movement (and proceeding black liberation efforts) and its impact on black communities, social structures, and cultural production. Within such a context, the works utilize video as a restorative and critical medium for examining the impossibility of representing and defining blackness, interrogating an established perception of blackness, and building a foundation for what has yet to be seen both within and beyond the frame.