The Lumpen Times: 30+ Years of Radical Media and Building Communities of the Future

Public Media Institute

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Way back in 1991, a zine was born in Champaign, Illinois called The Lumpen Times. The creators would go on to relaunch it in Chicago in 1993, and over time this underground magazine out of Chicago would lead them to build a Community of the Future.

Through the certainty of chance, collective engagement, casual encounters, and accidental actions, The Lumpen Times, became the hub for a series of cultural platforms spawning hundreds of projects, spaces, happenings, exhibitions, and initiatives.  Some projects were often short-lived, but as each receded, inevitably it fueled a new one in its wake. 

Besides publishing the freely circulated  magazine, they started a record label, spawned even more publications, engaged in dot-communism, opened community art spaces, hosted international art and activism festivals, and produced thousands of exhibitions and events. They also built an FM radio station, opened a bar,  some restaurants, launched a brewery, built another beverage company, created an artists retail shop, created community kitchens, and embarked on even more. This range of passions have become an interconnected and deeply inclusive set of ventures which is now called The Buddy System.

The Lumpen Times: 30+ Years of Radical Media and Building Communities of the Future shares stories from a few dozen of the thousands of collaborators of these endeavors. It contains a visual survey of the printed matter produced over the past 3 decades which shows the evolution of the xeroxed and stapled zine into an internationally awarded cultural periodical.  

The book is a catalog of strategies, highlighting dozens of “case studies” demonstrating how artists, activists, educators, and creative entrepreneurs of all stripes have built community and culture in our beloved city of Chicago via the printed word, physical spaces, and over the airwaves and digital networks. Each study includes the reason it started, examples of its production, and the reasons it failed, mutated, or continues to this day. This archive showcases some of the secret histories of Chicago’s countercultural milieus over the last three decades.

Dimensions: 9 x 12"
Materials: Soft Cover, 532 pages

Public Media Institute

PMI is a non-profit 501(c) 3 community based, art & culture organization located in the neighborhood of Bridgeport. Their mission is to create, incubate and sustain innovative cultural programming through the production of socially engaged projects, festivals, spaces, exhibitions, and media. PMI has published several periodicals including Proximity Magazine, the international arts and culture journal, as well as Lumpen magazine, Materiel Magazine, and Mash Tun Journal. Their main exhibition facility is the experimental cultural center, Co-Prosperity: a 5,000 + sq ft visual arts and performance space that is also home to Lumpen Radio WPLN/105.5 FM. The Buddy store is the newest arm of the PMI non-profit.