The Art Community of the Future: Lumpen’s annual Select Media Festival returns for year eight

Recent work by Juan Angel Chávez, who will be exhibiting at Select Media Festival's group show (courtesy of the artist)

Recent work by Juan Angel Chávez, who will be exhibiting at Select Media Festival's group show (courtesy of the artist)

Independent arts collective Lumpen’s eighth annual Select Media Festival promises to offer four nights of video programming, group exhibitions, performance art, and live music that will shock, blast, and perhaps even use hypnosis to instill art appreciation back into anyone who’s been jaded by too many wine and cheese gallery openings.

This year’s festival, titled “Super Bad Ass,” will be held November 19 to 22 at various locations in Bridgeport and Wicker Park. According to the website, the event will be “short and sweet. We have no filler, no excuses and no doubts.” Opening with video screenings at Wicker Park’s Heaven Gallery, the Festival closes in Bridgeport with an audience hypnosis experiment by artist Jacob Hammes.

The opening night program is an eclectic, highly accessible mix of straight-up cartoon comedy, art film, and documentary work. It will include everything from new comic works by Adult Swim animators Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, to documentary clips of past Lumpen events, to a video cover of “Like a Prayer” which reinterprets Madonna’s role as a “depression era scamp.”

The festival’s centerpiece, a twelve-person group show, will open on Friday at the Co-Prosperity Sphere, Lumpen’s experimental exhibition headquarters in Bridgeport and one of the largest alternative art spaces in Chicago. The show brings together live music, experimental interactive pieces, and visual art, and will give visitors the opportunity to trade anything but cash for painter Justin B. Williams’ favorite personal works and browse through inexpensively-priced new work collected by local artist Hui Min Tsen through national Craigslist open call ads. The latter is part of a larger project called the Seeking Art Bargain Basement, which began last spring as a part of Lumpen’s Version Festival.

Equally lively, non-interactive works featured in the exhibition include a functioning cardboard jet engine, part of a larger project by David Castleman inspired by the crash landing of a US Airways flight in the Hudson, a gargantuan wood-acrylic sculpture by Juan Angel Chavez, delicate yarn and felt pieces by Montgomery Perry Smith, and twenty-six pieces by graphic artist James Quigley that Ed “Edmar” Marszewski, Lumpen founder and festival director, described in an interview as “freakily beautiful.”

The organization of this year’s festival differs significantly from earlier formats. In past years, the festival oriented itself around an often explicitly activist theme. For example, in 2005, “Experimental Cultural Zone” filled the storefronts of a quiet, post-industrial street in Bridgeport with alternative bookstores and galleries to examine, according to Marszewski, “what happens when you put these innovative art projects in a zone that’s never seen this before.”

By contrast, “Super Bad Ass” is introspective. Instead of exhibiting art that draws attention to social or geopolitical issues, the festival brings together exemplary, innovative works in an attempt to question art practice in Chicago and address issues of conformity and the potentially mechanical output of the city’s art community. Described in Paper Magazine as “king of Chicago’s Underground Art Scene,” Marszewski has been active in the scene as publisher of Lumpen, an alternative zine, since the early ’80s. He believes that “people in Chicago are pretty lazy, it’s pretty sleepy.” Despite the diversity and talent of Chicago artists, Marzewski thinks that there is “less sense of urgency here” than in other American cities. Instead, he is worried that “some artists are just making work that will fit in these apartment galleries.”

In 2005, “Experimental Cultural Zone” created what Marszewski refers to as a “community of the future” based in his image of what could happen if a blue-collar neighborhood were seeded with innovative art practice. Similarly, “Super Bad Ass” will model an “art community of the future,” the four-day realization of Marszewski’s vision for what Chicago’s art scene can become. Whether it is geared toward artists or toward a larger, city-wide audience, “Super Bad Ass” will offer participants an enthralling, alternative art experience that is worlds away from the standard gallery hop.
November 19-22. Thursday-Sunday.