At first glance, a casual visitor might not expect Bridgeport to be an emerging hub for Chicago’s art scene: streets are stark, shops are scattered, and the wind chimes that dangle from residential houses break the silence. But lo and behold, on the southeast corner of 32nd and Morgan is the Co-Prosperity Sphere, one of the motors behind Bridgeport’s art renaissance.
The Co-Prosperity Sphere, an experimental cultural center that showcases all types of artists, hosts an array of events from art installations to festivals to performances. This 5,000-plus square foot gallery is the home of the Lumpen Media Group, a seventeen-year-old arts collective whose mission, according to their website, is to “create distribution outlets for critical countercultural entertainment, news, analysis and opinion.” Lumpen publishes the bimonthly Lumpen magazine, organizes the Select Media Festival in the fall and the Version Festival in the spring, and runs its own in-house internet radio station, WPBR.
On Friday, November 14, Select Media Festival 7 will kick off and will continue until November 22. Since its inception in 2001, the Select Media Festival has been an occasion for promoting and exploring eclectic and modern art, media, and ideas. Each year a festival committee cooks up a theme for the artists’ work; this year, that theme is “Infoporn.”
“It’s a way we digest USA Today graphs on everything,” participating artist Ryan Murray explains, “It’s the eroticism [behind] the graph and the chart.”
The Co-Prosperity Sphere website defines Infoporn as “a visual explosion of these [data] points and paths, these executions and exercises and maps. We want to put these moments on display, to measure them out. We want to understand and appreciate; be enraged, enlightened, amazed by them. We want to feast.”
Still baffled? Imagine, Murray describes, a USA Today article with a plethora of graphs, charts, histograms, diagrams, etc. Now, suppose you see one graph, or multiple graphs, that captivate you: not because you care about, or comprehend, the data, but because it’s aesthetically pleasing; it “turns you on.” That’s Infoporn, and what’s so great is that you don’t have to show ID or pay $20 per month to spark your libido.
On November 21, the Co-Prosperity Sphere’s new storefront space on 31st Street, the Eastern Expansion, will make its debut. The new gallery will feature a single artist’s work at a time, something Lumpen founder Ed “Edmar” Marszewski has wanted for some time. “I believe Edmar wanted [the space] to start doing solo projects in,” says Murray, “so a single artist will come in and have a cozy space to set up…something.” One of the great aspects about the new space is that the main window faces directly out to the street, allowing the passersby to glance in and see the art. “You can enter the space, but you don’t have to,” explains Murray.
Murray will be the first artist to display his art at the Eastern Expansion. He is an award-winning artist from Pittsburgh who now lives just a few blocks away from the Co-Prosperity Sphere. He creates paintings, installations, videos, and performances that mainly deal with the “connection and disconnection between science and mysticism.” Murray worked with the Co-Prosperity Sphere for about two months and displayed his paintings at one of their shows when Edmar asked him to hold the inaugural exhibition at the Eastern Expansion. For this show, Murray will create an installation of a “panacea potion shop,” in which he will use his sculptures of potions, elixirs, and liquid paint in “apothecary glassware and scientific lab glassware.”
Following the opening of Lumpen’s new addition, there will be an afterparty at Go-Go Town, a loft venue at 3117 S. Morgan Street at 11pm. Not only will this party be celebrating Eastern Expansion, it will also be hosted by the Bridgeport Art District, Lumpen’s other newest project. As a “commonwealth” of all the artists’ spaces around the Bridgeport community, B.A.D. is both an organization and event.
In order to avoid the lonely fate of separate art entities trying to “keep their heads above water,” B.A.D. will bring these artists together to organize neighborhood-wide events and performances. November 21 will be the first night of B.A.D., and on the third Friday of every month from then on artists, galleries, and local businesses will open their doors to the public to commune in the art scene of Bridgeport. Different art venues will hold events all throughout Bridgeport starting around 6pm.
“The more non-profit, community driven formats are more capable of showing more eclectic work that doesn’t necessarily have to bend to the fashions of the time,” states Ryan. “I think there is something totally exciting about spaces that don’t have to [adhere] to the regular issues of galleries and museums … These impromptu festivals can be very exciting.”
Select Media Festival: Co-Prosperity Sphere, 3219 S. Morgan St. November 14-22. selectmediafestival.com
Bridgeport Art District: Third Friday of every month, 6-11pm. bridgeportartdistrict.blogspot.com