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Elevate-Interview: Antonino d'Ambrosio

Antonino D’Ambrosio is an author, filmmaker and visual artist. His books include A Heartbeat and A Guitar: Johnny Cash and the Making of Bitter Tears, Mayday with artist Shepard Faiey, and Let Fury Have the Hour. D’Ambrosio’s essays from the latter inspired his feature length documentary feature film of the same name.

ELEVATE: What are the greatest challenges we are confronted with today?

There are many challenges that ultimately chip away at our shared common humanity, breaking down what connects us while strengthening what separates us. In particular, the dominance of private interests over the public good has done much to undermine key elements of our humanity, mast significantly our compassion (which I believe is what fundamentally makes us human). Without compassion and instead a focus on the individual we can never see ourselves in the place of another. This fragmentation and alienation does much to reinforce the ideology of those in power and makes it quite difficult for the interests of the public good to be clearly articulated, understood and ultimately advanced. All of this, in many ways, has led to the ever-widening gap of income equality, which reverberates throughout the world and impacts every significant issue around quality of life (education, housing, jobs, healthcare, art, culture, etc). The there is of course the media—more and more consolidated and controlled by corporate interests—with out a proper vehicle for gathering information, ideas, stories of the everyday and the anonymous we are left with in darkness. With the majority of the world involved in some kind of conflict—the Institute for Economics and Peace’s (IEP’s) latest study covering 162 countries found only 11 countries at “peace” or free from conflict—it's easy to see that all this working together undermines real opportunity and pushes us further away from a modern world and towards a barbaric one.


ELEVATE: Which strategies do you consider most promising for confronting the exploitative economic and political power of the elites, and for creating a brighter future for all?

For me, I describe it as embedding how we interact and act as human beings with creative-response. Out of this action of creative-response we then can build a true movement of ethics, something that is sorely lacking in my home country, America. We have the evidence that creative-response works and creates greater democratic opportunity for the majority and strives to make the world work better for everyone. Through creative-response and the building a true movement where uncovering the best ideas and making the best decision via ethics is central to how act as individuals and interact as a society.


You can learn more about my ideas around creative-response here:

ELEVATE: What projects, initiatives and people inspire and motivate you?

I can point to a number of projects, thinkers, artists, and I can list them here (artist Ai Weiwei, philosopher Simon Critchley, filmmaker Claire Denis, the Basque Mondragon Cooperative, technology collective Protei, environmental group Estamos, and many, many more) but simple, everyday encounters motivate and inspire me to aspire to be greater than myself. They include my time spent drawing, dancing and singing with my young daughter to my collaborations with those I create with to the time spent traveling and engaging with a diverse group of people such as the folks in and around the Elevate Festival.

ELEVATE: What do you recommend to people who want to be more proactive? How can they participate in a meaningful way?

People must act. That is my first and only recommendation. To create and sustain a society where democratic ideals and the public interest is paramount demands active participation and that participation can take many, many different forms but people must transform what they believe in, hope for, and dream into reality and the only way to do that is to take active participation in the word around you. 

ELEVATE: What will the world look like in 2030, 2050 and 2100? Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Which gloomy scenarios could become reality if we follow a business-as-usual approach? And which positive developments can you imagine if more people take part in a positive transformation of our societies?

The scenarios that will become reality if we don't change course are unfortunately our current reality: war, poverty, environmental catastrophe, epic levels of inequality. Yet we have the evidence of history on our side—we have not simply existed but endured. This is critical to understand and embrace for as we endure we survive and survival is another word for hope. So therefore I remain a hopeful person because we have continued to find a way to struggle, to fight, to survive and for me it all begins and ends with creative-response. We have ample evidence throughout human history of hope/survival (please see my essay “Bend the Notes: A Creative Response Intiation” from my book Let Fury Have the Hour), that while the dark forces may be present and seem to control and dominate our lives, the reality is that the human spirit and thereby humanity has always prevailed. The goal or dream for me is that this movement of creative-response and ethics draws together more tightly from all parts of the world rather then remain disparate and fragmented. One of the key ways to do so is break free of ideology, which tends to be devoid of forward-thinking, inclusive ideas and rooted in the past. Ultimately, it's people coming together that transforms society. And this is a fundamental truth of our history and our humanity. That's why it's critical that we continue to use creative-response to inspire people to act and participate in their communities and beyond. Remember “inspire” means to be “in spirt with,” which is itself the core of creative-response and the opposite of politics, which is what's done to us. Creative-response is what “we” do together.

ELEVATE: What are your hopes and wishes for the Elevate Festival on its 10th anniversary?

I hope that there are 10, 20, 30 more years of the Elevate Festival. As I mentioned above, Elevate represents a critical and vital creative-response, a place for people to gather together and exchange and discover the best ideas that will give us all the opportunity to act and transform the world around us. Quiet simply, for me Elevate Festival serves as a bridge to connect, collaborate, and craft what I dream into something real, transformative, and sustainable. One needs always to reach for a big vision for in the act of trying to be greater, sharing your vision, we can discover the millions who share this vision and then we realize everything is possible.


Antonino d'Ambrosio, 05.01.2015

Antonino will be back at the Elevate Festival in 2015!

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