George Jenne knew he wanted to kick off his new zine with “The Asshole Issue,” but he never dreamed that the contributors would take it quite so literally.
The first issue of Blount Force, a publication of the landmark Blount Street art gallery Lump, sports Jenne’s photo of a deformed Trump mask on its cover, and the president gets another nasty look inside, in Gil Kofman’s portrait, “Bullshit Trump.” Jenne’s essay on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 morphs into a reminiscence about a friend’s asshole ex, while another page is simply a double-column list of jerks, from Alex Jones and Bill Clinton to “the medium handsome Italian man who can’t be bothered to pick up his own dog’s shit” and “chefs that require you to call them Chef.”
But otherwise, it’s pretty much cover-to-cover to anuses. There are drawings of them spouting ants and tails and universes by Conner Calhoun, Lump’s special projects coordinator, while Lump director April Childers contributes a fundament-focused painting called “Dirty Fucking Hippy.” There are stenciled maxims by the art-historical insult comics of Janks Archive (“A thousand English ships couldn’t pull your mustache hairs from my asshole”), and there’s Monica Axelrod’s pop-academic essay, “Somebody Point Me to the Best Ass Eater,” which—well, use your imagination.
“If this is a Lump production, it needs to be inclusive,” Jenne says. “We encourage anyone to submit; it’s not curated and edited. When you do that, you have to go with the flow. I’ve got my idea of what ‘The Asshole Issue’ is, which was more about the people and politics of the day, but that’s not …” He trails off with a speechless laugh.
Blount Force is one of the ways Lump is spending the programming grant it received from The Andy Warhol Foundation a couple of years ago. The enterprise might seem baffling, unmoored from any particular cultural frame, unless you’re familiar with both the anarchic, anatomical spirit of Lump and the pre-internet world of zines, little magazines people Xeroxed off as dispatches from their cultural microclimates.
Many zines, like the Chapel Hill-based ones I used to write for circa 2000, were rooted in regional music scenes. But as many were about any kind of subculture you can imagine, and others were just random collections of weirdness and crudeness. The premiere issue of Blount Force is strongly in the last tradition, but with a cover charge ($5) and slick, glossy paper. Part art magazine and part profane purge, it’s like a bunch of nineties punk kids tried to make an issue of Juxtapoz.
Jenne was encouraged to make his zine dream a reality by two former Lump directors, founder Bill Thelen—whose artfully coarse drawings in the first issue are aptly poised between zine doodles and wall art—and Kelly McChesney, who held Lump down for a year between Thelen’s two-decade tenure and Childers’s appointment. Once the Warhol money came in, Jenne says he “had to actually pony up.” He had never made a zine before, but the project draws on several elements of his background.
After studying filmmaking at Rhode Island School of Design in the nineties, Jenne spent some time making low-budget music videos in LA, then gave up film for a decade to work in more tactile mediums, such as sculpture. But he started making art videos again when technology made it easier and less costly (if you saw his postmodern Southern Gothic video, “Spooky Understands,” in the Nasher exhibit Southern Accent, you definitely remember it).
One of Jenne’s key inspirations for Blount Force was Foodbox, a zine produced by his friends in one of the best nineties Chapel Hill bands you might not have heard of, Hellbender, whose members would go on to do all kinds of interesting stuff: Harrison Haynes became the drummer of Les Savy Fav and a noted North Carolina visual artist; Al Burian formed the band Milemarker and gained indie-press renown for his Burn Collector zine; Wells Tower became a nationally acclaimed fiction writer.
“They would travel around and print this little zine at Kinkos,” Jenne says. “It was named after the little food crate they carried around in their tour van. I thought I could do something in the spirit of that, hilarious and irreverent, but with increased production value. Also, most people can’t afford to buy art off the wall, even at a gallery like Lump, where it’s pretty reasonable. But now, you can walk away with a piece for Lump for five bucks.”
You can pick up Blount Force at Lump or order it online. You can also submit story ideas for the next issue, which Jenne hopes to publish in September. In this experiment in community curation, the first issue doesn’t necessarily predict what’s to come.
“The zine encapsulates the spirit of Lump,” Jenne says. “You go into Lump and you never know what to expect, and I would argue that it’s also a pretty irreverent gallery. Each issue, the concept can go many directions, and you get this weird mess of ideas inside.”
The next theme is “The Beyond,” which should be hard for anyone to take too literally but is also open to unpredictable possibilities. Jenne imagines it being about “all things conspiratorial and unexplained, alien-abduction nerd-out things like that.” But he’s been wrong before, and he knows that, really, it’s up to you.
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