Lantz Arroyo – Radix Media

Posted: September 29, 2011

Interviewed by Chris Richards, September 2011

Lantz Arroyo is one of my favorite people in Portland OR, well, anywhere really.  His dedication to a careful and constructive analysis in the face of oppression is inspiring and, a rare trait, useful.  Putting the analysis to action with Radix Media, Lantz has created a printing/design resource for the community, as well as provided us with literature to read, educational designs to hang on our walls, and he printed the Art of Dismantling Zines (as well as edited all my ridiculous typos and grammatical errors out of it!).  Keep an eye on Radix, its a new project and has endless amounts of growth and practical radical value ahead.

Greetings, can you give us a brief explanation of who you are and what Radix Media does?

Hello there, my name is Lantz Arroyo, and I run a one-person publishing operation and offset print shop called Radix Media. I consider myself an anarchist, and that spills over into Radix as well, which is a strictly anti- authoritarian enterprise.

Radix started a couple of years ago doing graphic design for activist groups who didn’t always have the time or the skills to make their outreach material look nice (and thus arguably more effective). Shortly after that, I started a year- long apprenticeship with Eberhardt Press, an anarchist printer and publisher in Portland, Oregon. During this time I learned the ins and outs of offset printing, and eventually got my own printing press. I expanded Radix into more of a complete operation and have been going strong every since.

I’ve printed all sorts of stuff for people: zines, business cards, record inserts, posters, flyers, and the like. I’ve also published three zines, including a reprint of “Towards a Less Fucked Up World: Sobriety and Anarchist Struggle,” “She Said,” and “JANE,” which was a co-publishing effort between Radix and Eberhardt.

Recently I completed a Radical Printer poster series, which is a five-piece series celebrating the lives of anarchist printers throughout history. I’m looking to expand the series, hopefully with non-male-identified printers, but it’s pretty hard to find information on any radical printer, regardless of their gender. I’m currently in the planning stages of another poster series on Puerto Rican Independistas and another series of some sort dedicated to Women of the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World, a radical labor union).

What does the word Radical mean to Radix Media?

The word “radical” literally means to get to the root. “Radix” is the Latin root of the word “radical,” and since it was always my intention for Radix to be a radical organization and to really explore the interconnectedness of struggle and of movements, it seemed like a fitting name. Anything that claims to be radical should be interested in and focused on getting to the root of an issue. For example, during this financial crisis that is currently crippling the working class of the united states, it is simply not enough to live more cheaply and to create workarounds to economic hardship – though that is quite necessary as well – but to really think about capitalism and whether or not it is an effective model.

A major part of our work is to illustrate that all struggles are connected. No one movement is isolated in its own bubble, free from any overlap into other struggles. It’s fine for someone to put most of their energy into a single issue, because trying to spread oneself too thin is a quick way to burnout. But it is crucial to show solidarity to other people fighting for their liberation. Feminism, animal rights, human rights, labor struggles, food politics are all connected. I believe that wholeheartedly and try to spread that message whenever and wherever possible.

Why offset printing versus digital?

Well, economically speaking, it’s just cheaper to produce things with offset printing versus digital. The up-front costs might be more, but it’s vastly cheaper over the course of a run. If you want more than 100 copies of something, offset printing is still the best option, because the quality is far superior and will pretty much last forever if done correctly.

But more than that, real printing is old and magical. Offset printing is over a hundred years old, and letterpress has been around for much longer. The fact that you can put ink on a page and create something that did not exist before is a pretty wonderful thing. And really, it’s an anarchist tradition. Printing and publishing is something that anarchists have been doing as far back as I can research. And why not? I mean, if we don’t document our history, who will? Those in power? Certainly not.

Printed material is also something you can pass down from generation to generation, unlike blogs on the internet and digitally produced books and pamphlets. The internet has made everything pretty disposable; if you don’t hear about the latest article or see the latest video that has “gone viral,” you’ve missed out and those things become irrelevant in a week. That doesn’t mean that technology can’t play a significant role in how we organize, but it simply doesn’t have the longevity of printed material.

What goals do you have for Radix Media and its impact on the world?

It can be really overwhelming to think about the big picture, when living the small picture is hard enough. But I’m looking to transition Radix Media into a worker-owned cooperative in the next year or two with a few of my closest allies, because I like to collaborate with people and because one person simply can’t do everything. This will enable us to do a lot more original design and publishing, while still being able to offer print services to outside clients. And let’s face it, not having a boss is awesome and if four or five people can make a living doing that work under the current rule of capitalism, I see no better option!

As far as our impact on the world, it’s hard to say. At bare minimum, we want to aide people in spreading radical ideas and information. We want to see the downfall of capitalism and the state, and see in its place a society that is horizontally organized, with no gods and no masters, as free as possible of oppression and violence. Is it going to happen in our lifetime? I’m not sure, but I think that our goal is and always should be the perpetuation of that goal. It’s the BIG big picture, and I hope that we can achieve it in the long term if not in the short term.

In our publishing work, we strive to prioritize the voices of typically marginalized communities who traditionally do not have access to media, and of important work that is in danger of fading from memory. In this way, I hope that we can play our small part in helping to tip the balance of power from the status quo to those who are most affected by it.

We try to be mindful of the environmental impact of our work, as well. We use 100% post-consumer recycled paper whenever possible. Our inks are usually vegetable-based, which are honestly not that much better than petroleum based ones, although they do have fewer VOCs. We transport materials by bicycle whenever possible, and offer a bike delivery service to clients. We try to make our footprint as small as we can, and I think offset printing is well suited for that. With regular maintenance, an offset press can last for decades, whereas photocopiers and “digital presses” that are clunky and mostly made of plastic, are quite disposable.

On your website, it says you disseminate meaningful and beautiful propaganda.  Propaganda for what?  What message are you trying to instill in your audience?

We are definitely trying to instill the radical notion that people can organize themselves, that we know what’s best for ourselves and how to run our lives. We’re trying to show people that we don’t need bosses, politicians or clergy to tell us what to do in order to be satisfied in our existence.

Propaganda is a tool, and everyone uses it. Although the word sounds quite dirty, it is not inherently wrong. Propaganda is about pushing a message, about spreading ideas; those ideas don’t have to be misleading, but they will always be biased, because they must be. When nazis, tea partiers, politicians, corporations and clergy release propaganda, it doesn’t say, “we’re pretty good, but those other folks are pretty good, too. Why don’t you just make whatever decision you want?” They try to push home the idea that they are the best, the ultimate, the only logical option, and that the people need them. So as we can see, propaganda is quite often not true.

But there are other forms of propaganda, as well. The Weather Underground was instrumental in creating anti-war propaganda at rallies and protests during the Vietnam War. It got people geared up and ready to mobilize, and regardless of what effect it ultimately had or didn’t have, it worked. Those political posters and leaflets spread information, and changed minds. It got thousands of people into the streets to protest atrocities being committed by the united states government. That is the purpose of propaganda. The political poster was also the most used form of communication during the Cuban Revolution, and labor unions such as the IWW have made some of the best posters and propaganda I’ve ever seen.

That trend has continued into contemporary times with all the radical design and print collectives that exist. An important thing to note about propaganda, however, is that it is a means and not an end. A poster can have other functions than to be strictly propaganda. A good example of this is the “Celebrate Peoples’ History” poster series by the Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative. It’s a wonderful collection of work, and is meant to focus on the positive aspects of struggle, victories that people have had. Obviously, from the title, it is meant as a way to celebrate our history, a history often left out of school textbooks and flushed down the memory hole of the ruling class. But it can still serve as propaganda. It can communicate previously unknown, if biased, information and change someone’s mind about an issue. So I think it’s important for anyone struggling for a better world to understand the importance of propaganda and to use it as the tool that it is. Our enemies already know this and use it daily.

On your website, it says you strive to foster social revolution.  Howso and why?

We want to empower people to change their lives, to organize, to mobilize, and to create a new world in the shell of the old. I’m not naïve enough to think that we do that strictly by printing posters and zines. But the more those ideas get out there, the better, and it’s crucial for us to build relationships with one another. We need to talk to each other, our neighbors and our peers, and we need to realize the strength we already have.

And certainly, we don’t wish to monopolize radical printing in any way. The more radical printing presses, the better! Let’s take over the means of production and litter this city, every city, with posters and leaflets and pamphlets and books. Let’s teach interested folks how to design effective posters, how to run printing presses, how to publish their ideas as cheaply as possible. It’s crucial to get the power back into the hands of the people, and I think Radix is a good example of that. Another goal of ours in the future is to create some sort of apprenticeship program for typically marginalized people to learn the trade of printing, so that they can be a better resource for their community and their struggles.

Also from your website, you say that it is impossible to separate the politics of every day life from every day life.  Does this imply that every action and inaction is then a political act or statement?

I think so. What isn’t a political statement? Even the people who (falsely, and pretentiously) say that they don’t have any politics are being political. What we choose to eat is a political choice. Where we spend our money is a political choice. How we treat each other is a political choice. How we resolve conflict is a political choice. This isn’t to say that every political choice is conscious – in fact, it’s usually quite the opposite. It also doesn’t mean that we should strive for some sort of (impossible) political purity or be snobs to anyone who doesn’t agree with our perspective 100%, or that any kind of liberal reform is necessarily the path to revolution. What it does mean, is that things matter. We don’t live in a bubble, every choice we make affects a migrant worker in a foreign country, a homeless person in the united states, an animal trapped in isolation on a factory farmed and destined for slaughter, a transgendered sex worker trying to make a living, a war veteran that is traumatized and lost. Our choices matter, and so when we say that it’s impossible to separate the politics of every day life from every day life, that’s what we’re trying to convey.

Anything else you want to add?

We’re all doomed.

But seriously, this is not an impossible battle. It will be long and hard, but it is not impossible to win. We have to be willing to embrace a diversity of tactics and support each other if we hope to make any sort of real progress. Hopefully, Radix Media can be a resource to the folks that are struggling, and hopefully we can pass down our knowledge to future generations to keep the fight alive.

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To learn more about Radix Media please visit the website:
http://radixmedia.org