The latest issue of this medieval punk zine features contributions by Chop Chop regulars Jim Ward, Dan Perjovschi, Mick Peter, John Russell, David Shrigley, Erica Eyres and Deborah Holland along with new Choppers Rebecca Anson, Luke Collins and Pingyeh Li (among many others).
Initiated in 2002 by John Beagles and Graham Ramsay, this year’s publication is the fourth edition of their paen to all things Rabelaisian. When asked recently how often it appears, the editors claimed (á la Julie Christie in Demon Seed) that it manifests itself ‘whenever we feel a little skull inside of us trying to get out—then we know it’s time for another Chop Chop’.
Production values have undoubtedly increased since earlier editions—for a start the edges of the pages have been trimmed to fit more neatly within the luxuriant, faux-leather, skull-adorned cover.
Ousted from the Glasgow Project Room (Chop Chop’s birthplace for the first three years), this year’s launch took place at Glasgow’s beloved State Bar, spiritual home (and literal second home) to many of the Glasgow-based contributors.
Part of the official Gi programme, ‘the Uncle’ eschewed the usual Private View propriety, drawing nephews and nieces to it’s lair through a shared love of grotesque realism, subterranean drinking dens and ribald revelry.
The publication reflects this Pantagruelism, not least in Sigga Sigurdardottir’s homage to bodily functions in her strange and fantastic drawing. Overall, the contents are bawdy, jocular and irreverent—characteristics shared by the zine’s namesake, Australian criminal and media star Mark ‘Chopper’ Read.
None of this should come as a surprise to Chop Chop completists. The zine has Beagles and Ramsay’s unholy humour writ large throughout and it is this dark wit that unites most of the textual and visual work which make up the publication. Chop Chop is unashamedly nepotistic in terms of commissioning.
Rather, Beagles and Ramsay are, if anything, refreshingly celebratory in their invitations to relatives, colleagues, students and friends whose work they admire. The tone is largely light for a journal dedicated to darkness, so Antonio Rego’s piece ‘Cheiro A Morte’ seems particularly poignant and raw. Two pages of text and image are devoted (one page each) to the artist’s experience of watching his terminally ill parents fade. It’s painful reading, almost unbearably honest and should be read widely.
Susannah Thompson is a lecturer at Edinburgh College of Art