Lumpen: Agitating Art

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Some people turn off the television in disgust, bitch about it for hours on end, then turn it right back on again. Ed Marszewski, the mover behind the Lumpen Media Group's outstanding muckraking, does something about it. For 15 years solid, Lumpen has dedicated itself to speaking truth to power, and it's armed itself with a variety of imaginative ways to do it, including the long-running magazine of the same name, a gripload of video and art festivals, DVD and CD compilations from its own Lumptronic label and much more. The Lumpen faithful are antsy activists, and they're not afraid to call bullshit on what they see as a world crawling slowly toward conformity.

"We believe what A.J. Liebling said, 'Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one,'" explains Marszewski. "And it's a good thing we do–we're using it to defeat mediocrity in all of its forms while celebrating the vibrancy of emerging cultures. Our projects seek to widen the discourse and explore new cultural forms."

They've done that specifically by launching some of the city's most compelling thought-swaps, including the Select Media and Version Convergence festivals–the former interrogates the interdisciplinary uses (and abuses) of technology, while the latter promotes the work of local media artists not yet immortalized in Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art.

More importantly, Lumpen has planted their progressive flag in the community by creating the aptly named cultural center Buddy (although the name is scheduled for a change). The facility, located on N. Milwaukee Avenue, is equal parts gallery, social space and party central for the various artists and activists who meet there. All of which brings new meaning to Carl Sandburg's City of Big Shoulders.

"Chicago is the best place to be 10 years ago and right now," enthuses Marszewski. "The countercultures are thriving, and the attitude and generosity of its inhabitants keeps us endlessly charged, inspired and active. Our goal is to highlight the real shit happening in town and abroad, and reject the corporate hype and propaganda machines defining culture for us."