Stepping Into The World Of Anarchitype
An Environment Built By Hand
Bars and clubs have gotten stale, but one local production company is doing their part to inject their own brand of experiential art to alter our expectations of a night out. Anarchitype Productions is focused on creating engrossing experiences that go beyond the standard, all in the name of art.
While Anarchitype has been building various sets and backdrops over the years, they found mainstream publicity in fall 2017 when their Stranger Things-themed pop-up, The Upside Down, popped off. For weeks, lines at Logan Square’s Emporium Arcade Bar formed around the block as dedicated fans of the show and curious passersby immersed themselves in the mini-pastiche of Hawkins, IN. The success and notoriety of the pop-up even garnered a friendly cease-and-desist letter from Netflix that ultimately praised Anarchitype’s creative efforts.
In the year since The Upside Down first opened, Anarchitype has produced a series of successful, experiential pop-ups meant to subvert people’s typical bar-going expectations. As founder A.J. Tarzian puts it, “What Anarchitype means to me [is] getting people to step outside of their comfort zone. [...] The only way to get people to break out of that loop where they don’t want to think about things further is to kind of trick them, you have to kind of lure them in a little bit with something, like ‘Oh, this is just a bar,’ and the next thing they know, it’s something much more.”
One way they’ve done that was with this past June’s Junipero Disco theme, which brought the gay bar experience over to Logan Square. “There’s a surprising lack of [the gay] scene in Logan Square and Bucktown; I feel like most of the people in that scene live closer to those areas than in Lakeview. The value in that is it’s great that people are accepting of queer culture, but I’m interested in that co-existing with “regular” bar culture. [With the various Emporium pop-ups], people are going in there every month for a different thing, then they go in, and it’s a gay bar. Hopefully people still want to hang out and they realize what it actually means and what that culture is - a culture of artists that support each other.”
Further bolstering the idea of artists supporting one another is the recent addition of Katrina Tarzian, A.J.’s sister and well-known photographer within the gay nightlife and hip hop scenes. As she puts it, Anarchitype is about “bringing together all these scenes, when really, we could be doing bigger and better things as a collective [...] We see the benefit of us being one thing [under the Anarchitype name] that is using all of [our] connections and bringing very different, distinct worlds that exist in this city together [...] to help promote diversity.”
This diversity is expressed bothin the various groups their pop-ups attract, and the themes of the pop-ups themselves, ranging from collaborations with larger companies like film studio A24 for the The Disaster Artist-themed pop-up Tommy’s Planet, to independent projects like the holiday-themed Sllime’s Broke-Ass Christmas show and this past spring’s Soul Masterpeace weekend. Anarchitype promotes interaction, encouraging the artist inside all of us, and Soul Masterpeace offers attendees the chance to paint their own (soul) masterpieces. The setup features musicians of varying backgrounds improvising on stage while attendees are encouraged to paint on canvases to their heart’s content. As Katrina describes, “It’s crazy to see people get stuck in it that didn’t want to touch the paint. Their friends are like, ‘Let’s go,’ but they’ll be like, ‘No, I’m still painting…’ A.J. adds, “It’s no longer me trying to convince them, it’s them coming up to me and saying, “Yo, did you see that? I painted something. I made something!’ That’s what Anarchitype has always been. The symbol is paradise through anarchy, flipping people’s perception; stuff that might be scary might actually not be as scary as we think it is.” The subversion of a paradise sprouting out from a flipped anarchy sign completely represents what Anarchitype is striving to accomplish. “I think the symbol is powerful, it sticks with you. I want to push that more, not even without the words. [However] I’m hoping as we put that symbol out with Anarchitype Productions [added to it] with more info, people will be like ‘Whoa what the fuck, I’ve seen that symbol before.’ Or some people might never know.”
Anarchitype’s success has spawned some similarly-themed events around Chicago, including Replay’s recent Rick and Morty and The Office pop-ups. However, as the old adage says, imitation is the greatest form of flattery; both A.J. and Katrina take it in jest: “Things like that are inevitable, but it’s kind of a good thing…” Katrina explains. “I don’t think it’s ever in a negative way. I think all art is essentially copying, but you’re supposed to twist it. That copy is supposed to evolve into something else.” A.J. elaborates, explaining that it was only a matter of time before companies truly grasped on how important experiential marketing can be. “From the standpoint of where we’re at right now, it’s a really good thing. I was reading an article the other day in Forbes or some crazy magazine like that. It was like [about] experiential marketing is the next big wave, all of these big companies are looking for all these experiential marketing stuff, and it’s something we’ve always done. I was like, ‘Well, that’s great. That’s exactly what we want’.”
There’s more to come from Anarchitype, whether it’s their current 3 Floyds Cimmerian Ark of Carcosa pop-up or new ideas outside of what we’ve come to expect from them. “I think there are going to be a lot of things coming out of the Anarchitype brand. To me, it’s more of an ideology and lifestyle than a brand. I don’t want it tied down to just events,” A.J. explains. Katrina concludes, “It’s a name we both work under and others that are doing similar things. We want to help produce more things, like music videos and sets, kind of branch out to more fields with it.” Whatever shape Anarchitype’s future projects may take on, you’re guaranteed to experience something that will open your eyes to a brand new world.