‘Null Point #17’ is a bumptious take on pornography

Null Point # 17

Zine, Graham Cooling, Yelling at Concrete, nullpoint.org, 22 pgs, $0.90

Each issue of UK artist Graham Cooling’s bimonthly zine attempts to grapple with one single idea. The zine’s opening manifesto presumes a kind of neutrality vis a vis the anonymity of it composer(s), saying its “message is unattached … allowing it to be accessible for all”). I’ll note, the anonymity only persists until the reader might follow the URL written inside the zine, where Cooling is listed. Nevertheless, as a self-contained print missive, Issue 17 of the project grapples with pornography as its topic. What is it? Is it good or bad?

The zine’s opening manifesto says of, “you may hate it, you may love it.” True enough, though those are two strong words. I fall more in the threshold zone of “may” alone.  Let me begin with what I like about this zine. Cooling’s drawings and graphics are neat, surreal and teeming with details. The front and back cover together contain the most fun drawing of the whole piece: a prone teddy bear getting its bits mashed by cymbals belonging to a toy monkey. Deeper within, a photo of old-timey teases revealing their knickers (gasp!) expands the sexy theme.

I confess I am less fond of the zine’s opening essay, a mild defense of the porn industry’s existence. I do not intend to wade into a debate on porn here, but it seems Cooling is willing to go out on some dubious limbs, suggesting that young people should be made more porn literate and that viewers should just know that porn is unrealistic before they start watching it. Jean Baudrillard may beg to differ. Cooling’s ideas are well-intentioned, but give too much benefit of the doubt to those who profit from distorting reality. On the other hand, Cooling’s closing story “Dirty Mag,” which follows two boys who encounter a porn magazine in the woods, is solid. It cleverly illustrates both the allure and potential harm belying premature exposure to porn. It suggests what is true of this zine: a mixed bag is not always a waste of your time.