Letter from the Editors
To our loyal and disloyal readers:
This issue that you hold in your hands holds many utopias.
The specific word stretches back 502 years, when Sir Thomas More coined the term from the Greek in his 1516 book Utopia. The idea is as ancient as it is futuristic. In the Great Lakes oasis of Chicago, utopia has driven many people and many projects: the Miami Confederacy, Lucy Parsons, the Haymarket Riots, the Nation of Islam, and the town of Pullman, to name a few.
The World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 was one such project, and it brought thousands of people to Chicago to explore, mingle, work, protest, and marvel at the future of urban life. It took place during a period of tidal shifts in society (400 years after the arrival of Columbus; 30 years after the Emancipation Proclamation; 22 years after the Great Chicago Fire; 16 years after the end of Reconstruction; 7 years after the Haymarket Square protests; 1 year before the Pullman railroad strike; 3 years before the Plessy v. Ferguson case) and cast the future of Chicago’s architecture and culture. Utopia according to the organizers of that fair was, like the organizers themselves, Eurocentric, white, capitalist, and male. But there was pushback to that vision. We find utopia in the struggle led by Ida B. Wells and Frederick Douglass to protest the racism of the fair. In the history of oppression there is always also an intersecting history of resistance.
If you’re reading this in time with the issue’s release (June 22-30), there is another Chicago World’s Fair happening. The World’s Fair 2018 is the remix of the history of the 1893 Expo, creating community in a world that transcends money and borders. Like this issue, the WF2018 is a platform for the utopian visions lighting Chicago now and from the roots. We ask, what is utopia without money and borders? What are our fantasies and forecasts for a free world, a fair world, a World’s Fair? Join the parades, workshops, performances, potlucks, and conversations all week; the schedule is online at www.nomoneynoborders.com! #nomoneynoborders
This publication has focused on the art and writings surrounding the community of independent/underground musicians in Chicago that generally falls under the purview of the DIY Chi. The lines that determine what is DIY Chi, and what is not, are blurry and confusing. For a demonstration of this blurriness one needs not look further than the names of the separate facebook groups devoted to it: “DIY Chicago,” “not diy not chicago,” and “Chicago DIY Rap & Hip Hop.” Like any good utopia, DIY Chi is never quite one. It is frequently debated whether pDIY Chi is a good thing or not; that is, whether it effectively offers anything better in its do-it-yourself ethos than the conventional setting for music at established venues with established artists. We will say some things with certainty. First, there is indisputably a supply of unimaginably talented musicians and artists all around us that grossly overwhelms what is seen as the industry proper, with its money backing and inherited prejudices and established venues, publications, musicians, and distributors. What’s more there is a demand for this music and a willingness to create it in spite of all the constraints of money and borders, as people from all walks of life crave the community, reflection, and raw energy that sometimes only music can provide.
The DIY Chi roots in and grows from past versions of itself in a way that is constantly moving toward paradise. We have been experimenting with sustainable, alternative living situations and forms of exchange and justice for years. When our collective dream of a freer, happier, art-fueled world is attacked and falls, we don’t end up at the bottom, forgetting all the progress we made. We hold on to it, and change and continue building towards our dreams with the tools we’ve fought for. We are our ancestors’ wildest dream and we are building utopia.