La Lutta New Media Collective is a New York-based group of activists,
artists, educators, and rabble-rousers dedicated to raising social
awareness through new media. By providing technical and production
assistance to community groups and individuals involved in movement
building, information sharing, social justice, and human rights,
they aim to empower those people and communities who are more often
harmed rather than helped by new technology. They offer assistance
in the form of Web site development, information system support
and implementation, digital film and documentary production, and
organizing performances, events, and gatherings in efforts to build
communication centers for information exchange and movement building.
La Lutta (the name comes from La Lotta, meaning "the struggle" in
Italian) is now in their fifth year of operation.
Antonino D'Ambrosio is one of the co-founders of La Lutta NMC;
I spoke with him over many long-distance, long-running phone conversations
about La Lutta and the meaning of integration.
What's going on right now, what projects is La Lutta working
We have this big visual arts arm to the organization. With that,
we're working on two documentaries: Once There Was A Village is
based on a book by artist/activist Yuri Kapralov, covering 40 years
of activism and social movements on the Lower East Side and Back
in the Days is an examination of a Brooklyn community before
it was ripped apart by crack. We are also doing a lot of outreach.
We provided cameras to people filming anti-World Economic Forum
What other groups have you been working with?
We support a lot of local grassroots organizations here in New
York. We lend our cameras and provide technical support to housing
rights and anti-gentrification groups and work with younger people
teaching them how to shoot and edit film. Sometimes the communities
may have something specific in mind to do with the film, like a
documentary or archiving, but we will also use some of their stuff
in our projects. We also provide a space to display the different
organizations' projects at the events we throw.
This is a Movement is a series of community events and
conferences where different groups involved with La Lutta collaborate
and showcase their work. Some of the younger activists we work
with have given spoken word performances or shown their films at
other events and benefits we put together. Our goal in this is
to integrate all the different projects into a larger collaborative
project. We're trying to eliminate these situations that arise
where everything is so fragmented to try to show that there are
so many connections in all this work. We think that the work these
anti-gentrification groups are doing is great, but want to show
that it's likely connected to the health care program around the
corner in the same community. We understand those connections and
bring them together through media projects, such as film.
Film to me is like technology: I have a love hate relationship
with it. Like technology, it often separates us more than brings
us together and only promotes the agendas of a small, exclusive
group of people. It's also expensive and highly technical. We're
trying to take that convention and turn it on its head using the
tools of the oppressor. We're taking the understanding that film
and television are how most people get their information and using
it to reach and influence as many people as we can. Through film
documentation we create a historical record of things we think
are important. There's such a revisionist approach to the problems
around us. Hardly anyone is preserving memory and in the mainstream
media there's even a great effort to create a climate of constantly
forgetting. All the film projects in production right now are historical. Once
There Was A Village remembers an artist and working class community
before gentrification took over and Back in the Days remembers
a community before it was overrun by crack. This March we will
be going to Cuba for the Tear Down the Walls conference
to film it and create the visual world history that as soon as
Castro dies will effectively be wiped away. Another film project
we're starting work on, called America is a Day, approaches
the lack of memory in this country head on.
Explain the concept of America is a Day.
America is a Day aims to show the chronic lack of memory in this
country and how conscious and malevolent that amnesia is. Examining
how Americans live day in and day outdemonstrates how de-politicized
people are, how unable people are to contextualize what goes on
around them. What we want to do try to get a cross-section of people
who work, follow them around (ideally people will film themselves)
for a couple weeks. Then after the few weeks are over we will get
them together to interact and show parts of the films. With everyone
together we will bring up specific things from the films that might
create an interesting discourse where people talk about their experience,
about what people see in their relationships, and what that means
in terms of how people live. There are all these issues day in
and day out that come up and people don't know what to do with
them. One interesting thing about September 11 is that people were
forced to have discussion of sophisticated complex political issues
in a really uninformed way in a really simplistic way. It
showed that people have no way to process what goes on and that
comes out in day to day interactions.
Creating context by preserving
America is a day.
I know that's one of La Lutta's slogans, of which you have
many. You seem to use a specific language and terminology on
the site and in your press. What is the thinking behind that?
I started understanding the influence of slogans from my own experience
being politicized early on through punk rock. Seeing Joe Strummer
wearing a Red Brigades T-shirt turned me on to the Italian Anarchist
movement, something I might have never stumbled onto. The punk
scene was very effective as a movement that way. I think the Situationists
were also very effective in their creation of new words and intriguing
propaganda. Slogans are visceral, short, intense, and accessible.
They have shown already to pique people's interest in our organization.
People ask all the time what the term La Lutta means; that becomes
an opportunity to inform people about our organization.
Do you consider yourselves an Anarchist group?
Not overtly. We are trying to stay away from any labels to reach
as many people as possible. We realize that what you do and how
you act is intrinsically political and are trying to stay away
from wearing our politics on our sleeves trying to counteract
all the fractionalization that goes on in "the left" because
of miniscule political differences. The main purpose of La Lutta
is to provide solidarity in the struggle. People call us Anarchists
You've been around for about five years now, how has the organization
changed and what have you learned about this kind of activism?
My idea when we first started La Lutta was we have some skills:
I can make films, I have a grasp on technology. I've had some opportunities
and advantages. Why don't we start this organization that offers
our skills to the community; we have the benefit of our experience
to bring people together. We wanted to show that skills like these
can be used for more than making money. We wanted to be a resource
where people could call us for extremely varying kinds of issues
and, at first, overextended our resources a little. You have to
recognize where to place your energies. In the beginning we would
get caught up with "left" groups who would monopolize
our time, clearly because they thought their issue was more important
than some of the other groups' we were assisting. I call this the "sandbox
mentality" so prevalent in the left. All these groups have
their corner of the sandbox, only worrying about the castles they're
building. They forget that the sand is owned by someone else. We
decided to concentrate on projects that are really achievable like
Dispatch, our on-line writing and news journal. We give people
the opportunity to contribute writing and if they do the work,
they can become an active member of the Dispatch collective. The
collective then changes form by the members in it and the work
they are interested in. The infrastructure is set up to help people
do what they want to do, what they love to do.
That's something very radical in itself.
Definitely. When people see that something is working, that they
are getting done something they want to do, that can have a huge
impact -- on individuals as well as whole communities.
La Lutta's Website is www.lalutta.org