If you really sat down and tried, you could turn a lot of pages in the space of 30 days. While we provide you with about 120 of those pages every month, it turns out VICE isn't the only magazine in the world. This series, Ink Spots, is a helpful guide to which of the zines, pamphlets and publications you should be reading when you're not reading ours. Fake news and questionable sources mean it's harder than ever to tell what's true and what's not within today's media soup. Yet, the truth is also easier to expose today than ever before – the rise of surveillance and hacktivism mean that the things we don't want people to see could potentially end up spread across the internet. The news is littered with reminders of this – reminders that we're not safe anywhere. These are the kind of spooky themes INTERLOPER magazine take as its subject matter in Issue One: Surveillance. A new project from London-based photographer Alice Zoo and her friend and co-editor Christopher Edwards, it asks the reader to figure out how much of what they're reading is true. Billing itself as "an experiment and a lie", their contributors work in mediums they're not used to and are encouraged to use pseudonyms. The work inside is a mixture of fiction and journalism, painting a picture of a dystopian (but not too unfamiliar) society where private information is the currency. We asked Alice and Christopher why now felt like the right time to make a magazine about how nothing is ever quite as it seems, as well as how they went about it.
VICE: Where did the idea and name for INTERLOPER come from?
Alice Zoo: When we decided to collaborate on a zine, I think neither of us were interested in a straightforward mode of journalism – we didn't feel like we wanted to add any think pieces to the already-saturated online publishing world. That also fed into our decision not to put INTERLOPER content online. The magazine can only be read in print, which in some ways feels more "real" than the way we consume the majority of our media, in that it can be held in your hands, but in other ways it's far more fleeting and evasive. How much of what we're reading is true, if you had to pin it down to a percentage? Or is that for us to work out?
Alice: Hopefully INTERLOPER represents a new genre in which ideas about truth and falsehood hold less sway or are less clear. There should be an atmosphere of doubt. It's a kind of puzzle: if a given amount of what the magazine contains is untrue, can any of it be trusted? I think where it can become particularly interesting is in the visual art: can visual art be classified as true or false, fictional or nonfictional in the same way as writing can? If somebody makes a "fake" series of photographs or illustrations under an assumed name, how do we then interpret them?
Christopher Edwards: For me, in terms of the writing at least, it's not really important how much is true, although it is important that some of it is. I think the more important principle behind what we're trying to do is playing with the genre of the essay as a vehicle for fiction. It's a different kind of framing device for a fictional world. Not that it's totally new, of course – some people in the 16th century thought Thomas More's Utopia was a real traveller's account of a real island in the Indian Ocean.
What do you think of the term "post-truth politics"? Does it feel relevant to what you were thinking about when you set out to create INTERLOPER?
Christopher: It's obviously not new, although I think stories like Hillary Clinton running a child sex ring out of a pizzeria clearly represent an insane and farcical evolution of the principle. I mean, it's a huge issue that I'm not sure I have a pithy response to – how and why people believe or disbelieve things they are told to be true. I suppose it comes down to the degree of prestige or authority that a medium can acquire – the respect needed to be believable – and the internet offers the easiest route ever to achieve that level of authority. It might sound counter-intuitive, but it wasn't a concept that had much direct influence over us when we started developing the idea, although we are trying to play with authority in an adjacent way. Most of your contributors work under pseudonyms – correct? Was it hard to find people who would agree to that? Can we know who they really are?
Alice: Many of the pieces were created under pseudonyms, but this was entirely up to each contributor – people were welcome to contribute under their real name if they wanted to. The idea was to give people the space to write or make something they might not usually, and to remove some of the pressure associated with having your every piece of work archived on the internet and associated with your professional or creative self. The pseudonyms were an opportunity for more creative freedom, and also more blurring of the boundaries between truth and fiction.
Christopher: Yeah. Although we will also hopefully be seeing some returning pseudonymous contributors, which will build new, fictional personalities into the publication. Even though we're striving for a kind of neutral journalistic tone throughout, each piece is written by a potential character, with discernible traits of personality and style, as much as it's written by a real person using a different name.
How does the magazine's photography relate to all of the above?
Alice: The photography deals with the same themes as the writing: in this issue, specifically surveillance, manipulation and privacy. The main photo piece in Issue 01, by Steph Wilson, uses altered appropriated images to raise questions about ownership, privacy and the discomfort of finding yourself a voyeur, and our Instagram account also uses imagery that reflects those themes.
Chris: I think in future editions we'll explore the idea of fiction within photography further, and the way that the camera – especially because it's thought of as being so truthful – can lie more convincingly than other visual art. We'd also like to integrate the photographic and written content more fully so that there's less of a division between the two: essays containing both words and photographs, with neither one being simply explanatory or illustrative, but substantive modes of expression that are given equal weight.