Who is the Black Spark? Ever since an anonymous 20-year-old filmmaker began posting videos of his sex life on XTube last fall, many viewers have interpreted this question as an invitation to search for his identity. But according to the man behind the mask, they've misunderstood the point. Many of these same people call his work -- artistically shot, LED-lit fantasies -- porn, which he, again, says is incorrect. Like Robert Mapplethorpe and Lars von Trier before him, the Black Spark contends that art can be a place for sex to mingle with substance. Who the Black Spark is and what he's doing with his flesh are questions poised to unfold as this filmmaker rolls out a blog, website, and feature-length film centered around his veiled character. Out spoke with the Black Spark to find out about his sexuality, his stance on porn, and where he plans to take us.
Out: I have to say, I don't think I've seen anyone have sex in a mask since Eyes Wide Shut.
The Black Spark: We all wear masks. It's not always literal, but we put on a different mask every time we meet a new person, so the mask that I wear is just a culmination of all of our masks. It was purposefully not a sexy mask. It's kind of a scary one that spoke to me. I put it on my face and I didn't want to take it off.
There's a dark undertone to your work that I think has a lot to do with the mask. It's sexy but there's something else behind the sexuality. What is that?
From day one, I set out to have a message. Sex scenes in movies sometimes speak to me, but in pornography, they don't. That's just two people flopping all over each other like a dead fish. Sex is powerful. You can have sex with someone and you can feel in love and drawn to them and vulnerable. I wanted to be able to show all the power that comes from sex. The Black Spark is a superhero and that is his power: lust.
Usually superheroes protect someone or something. So what is Black Spark protecting?
Creative freedom. I'm trying to save people from themselves. We live in a society where there's so much censorship, and I would like for people to be able to gather in a movie theater and see the content I create, if they choose to see it and are adults. A lot of people say, 'This isn't anything new he's doing. This reminds me of the art porn from the '70s,' and that probably is an influence on me. I don't see what's wrong with having sex mixed with substance. There can be a message through sex.
Why is it important for you to remain anonymous to do that?
Because the Black Spark and who I am in life are night-and-day different. People think this is his life and he's this super hypersexual this and that. And, yeah, that's a part of me, but my everyday life is opposite of that. It's important to keep them separate for my sanity.
What can you tell us about who you are in real life?
I'm a filmmaker. The Black Spark isn't the only thing I'm working on. I'm going to show at some festivals this year, and that's another reason why I'm anonymous. I don't want the Black Spark to hinder my large-scale future plans in film.
You obviously know there's a debate raging online about whether you're making art or porn.
It's not porn -- it's my life. What you're seeing is not a show I'm putting on. People need to know they're seeing something real and the reality of it makes it art. There are no faked emotions. When people in my work look passionate or in love or deeply in lust, that's all very genuine. Whereas in porn you put two people together and you're paying them $500 to do a scene. Just because two people are having sex and you get to watch it, doesn't make it porn.
Have you ever done porn?
Some people think I have.
What does that mean?
I read that a lot.
But is it true?
I can't really say. If I did do porn, I guess that would have been in my regular life. I will say this: I have no interest in doing porn.
You're still borrowing from porn, though.
Well, for example, you show cum shots.
There are also cum shots in my bed at night when I'm having sex, and I'm not doing porn then. I don't think when I'm jerking off and I'm cumming, I'm borrowing from porn. I'm just getting off. There's nothing in my work that's influenced by porn websites. None of that inspires me. In porn you don't have to feel anything. My work is driven by what I feel.
But are you worried porn will be influenced by you?
Porn will absolutely be influenced by me. I'll adapt. When porn decides to step on my toes, I'll adapt. I'm well-prepared to do that.
Why did you start by posting on the porn site Xtube?
It was a marketing thing. It's a place where I knew the word would spread. Blogs cover Xtube, a lot of people look at it, and I needed to get the work out. Xtube is a perfect place to get feedback. Of course some of it was raunchy, but a lot of people got back to me. Look at the comments I get on Xtube. They're completely different from the other work. People tell me this work inspired them and I love that.
You're about halfway through making a feature-length Black Spark movie. What can you tell me about it?
What you get on Xtube is a simple, cleanly edited, basic version of my story. The film is more. It doesn't hold anything back. I can't tell you in what capacity, but I'm not wearing a mask in the movie.
What is the film about?
It's a movie about redemption. I lost my way in life this summer. I was not happy, and in a lot of ways the Black Spark is a hero because -- it's just this gimmicky thing to some people -- but it saved my life. The film is about righting the wrongs we make and holding ourselves responsible for our own misery. The movie is about love. And mercy.
Since there will be dialogue, are you working with actors?
They are actors and some people I just found. There's a mixture. Some of the people have been learning to act since November and December to make the project better, so it's a labor of love. I'll put it out there when it's ready and perfect. I'm not going to rush it.
There's also a White Spark character, right?
There are five Sparks right now -- a White Spark and a Red Spark and others -- and about seven villain characters. Some of them will be in the movie, but for the most part it's for people to get to know the Black Spark. The guys who play the other characters are people I knew and thought were beautiful. I wasn't looking for porn stars, I was just looking for regular people I saw something amazing in. I talked to them about their deep, dark secrets and then I created a character.
There's an overt masculine tone to the Black Spark, with the bandanna and the plaid button-up and the aggressive intensity in your eye contact. Is that purposeful?
I'm bisexual, for one, and two, I'm a man. This is going to sound crazy, but I'm a man: I get into fights, I spit, I build things with my hands, I can destroy things, I can protect my family. I think it's important not to downplay someone's masculinity just because he's having sex with another guy.
Is there a femininity to any of the other Sparks?
The White Spark is very delicate. He's strong but he definitely has a very feminine aspect to him. He's beautiful. The romance in the last video was all him. I don't necessarily know anything about romance. He brought that into my life. What everyone saw was me experiencing romance for the first time.
Do you separate love and sex?
I'm learning that it's not a crime to show that you care for somebody. I'm learning to express intimate feelings. I could love a man just like I love a woman, and I just found that out in 2011.
In the videos you only have sex with men, but are you also having sex with women?
You only see me having sex with one person, and that's who I have sex with everyday.
So, you're dating the guy behind White Spark?
No, we're not dating, but there's definitely love there. He's everything I'm not. He has compassion and that feminine side and all those things I admire. He has all those traits of every girl I've loved and every man I've known. I think he intimidates me. He's the most beautiful person I know, so I wish I could show his face in the videos. He would let me, but I choose not to.
If he's fine with it, then why don't you?
Because I love him, and I don't want him to experience ridicule. I don't want his life to change. It's almost like a prize to me that I know how beautiful this person is. It puts me in my place.
Your work is soon moving to a new home. What can we expect from your website launch?
The blog will launch this week and the website will be soon after. But the videos you see on Xtube are not the content on my website. For anyone who feels like they've got pegged what I have planned, I've got some surprises in store. When you go to an art gallery, where's the art? It's hug up on a blank, white wall. The website is a canvas, not a porn site. It's my art gallery. It's a place for all the insanity inside my head and it's an invitation into the clouds.
Will people have to pay for access?
They may, it just depends. They won't have to pay to go to the blog. The blog will post two videos a week that will be like the videos you've seen on Xtube. The website is a different type of experience.
Two videos a week is a lot of work.
I have sex seven days a week. Those videos are real and film on the fly. I love my fans and it's a commitment I'm willing to keep up with.
Your videos have also gotten a lot of attention for your use of contemporary music, both popular and obscure. What are you listening to?
One of my closest friends is a sound engineer for some major, major artists, so I hear a lot of music early. There's always music playing around me. That's why there's no dialogue. The song gives you the story behind the video. It's the narrative. On the website there will be licensed music, but it won't be the same thing. Right now there's a score being produced just for this project from a really talented musician.
Lastly, I have to ask you about your shoes. I want them all, especially those gold high tops you wear a lot.
Those are my superhero shoes. They're Supras. I think every episode you'll start seeing a new pair of shoes. I have well over 250 pairs. I was actually giving some away last night because I don't have anywhere to put them anymore. I'm pretty shoe-crazed.
You can follow the Black Spark on his website BlackSparkAndTheClouds.com and on his Facebook page.