Inside Under/current

by Steve Watson in May 2010
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This month’s magazine was the heavyweight arts and culture title Under/current. It’s an incredibly rich and very beautiful read, and rewards those readers prepared to sit down and spend some serious time with it.

I wanted to get its editors William Alderwick, Yannis Tsitsovits and Melina Nicolaide together to go into more detail about Under/current, but we couldn’t manage to get everyone together in the same place at the same time so I settled for firing a few questions off by email instead. The results follow below – a quick peek into a complex publication.

How did you come to start Under/current?
We first started working together as editors for an online magazine, although some of us knew each other beforehand. But in the end that particular format and environment seemed too limiting to us, so we decided to go our own way. That’s how Under/current began.

How would you describe Under/current?
It’s a biannual art and fashion magazine that combines a strong aesthetic with challenging ideas. We like to create themed issues with a twist: concept-driven but visually rich.

It’s very beautiful – what are your inspirations?
It varies from theme to theme. We were quite inspired by the financial turmoil and notions of apocalypse and breakdown while making the ‘Downfall’ issue. For our latest issue, ‘Dawn’, it was the emergence of new beginnings – paving new ways through the fog, so to speak. The inspiration starts with the theme we want to explore and everything else follows from there, really.

Magazine-wise, we like publications with a strong, singular aesthetic, such as A Magazine from Belgium. Frieze and Cabinet are also inspirational in the way they look at visual culture without getting bogged down in inbred art jargon.

It tangles with some quite complex ideas – are there any articles that you’ve considered running but decided they’re just a bit too difficult?
As long as the style is accessible, we’d consider running anything that throws an interesting light on the theme.

You have some lovely fashion shoots – who makes them happen?
It’s mainly Melina, our fashion editor and stylist, who works with photographers and artists from all over the world. Sometimes they’re commissioned pieces – like the series of self-portraits by Fumiko Imano in our latest issue.

You don’t use the normal magazine tricks to catch a reader’s attention – stuff like pull quotes, boxes and short standfirsts. Is that deliberate? What effect do you want to create for your readers?
All the things you mention are in some way or other devices for force-feeding the reader information, which often feels patronising or reductive. But the main problem is how ugly they look on the page. We like to stick to the essentials without ramming the contents down our readers’ throats. People appreciate things more when they’re given time to explore them on their own terms.

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