NXS returns with its fifth issue, themed on Virtual Vertigo and our relationship with tech
The world is becoming increasingly intwined with technology. The NXS team tells us more on this complex topic, the focus of its latest issue.
- Ayla Angelos
- 21 April 2020
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
Digital technology takes centre stage in the pages of NXS. For its most recent fifth issue, the team have conceived a publication themed on the topic of Virtual Vertigo – an investigation into the digital self as we increasingly confer over FaceTime, talk on the phone with virtual assistants, or watch videos and simulations that distort our trust in reality.
Founded over three years ago, the first issue was a “playful experimental approach” to finding a new research format, says Monika Grūzīte, one of three founding members, alongside Juliette Lizotte and Florian Mecklenburg – plus Karolien Buurman who joined in 2017. After launching the debut magazine, which was accompanied by performances, exhibitions and talks, the issue transformed into a collaborative project titled NXS World – a network of over 200 collaborators. This includes visual artists, researchers, graphic designers, “modern witches”, activists, poets and bloggers, such as Jonathan Castro, Anja Kaiser, Pinar & Viola, ElpopoSangre, Lil Miquela, Reba Maybury, Holly Herndon and Mat Dryhurst, Jack Self, Armen Avanessian, James Massiah and many others.
“The first issue,” continues Monika, “like all other ones that followed after, started with a personal observation of something that affects us in our direct environment.” She states how they believed that NXS was the first of its kind, for its ability to deal with content that relates to our virtual and non-virtual existence. As for its fifth issue, the theme was devised after the release of the FaceTime Attention Correction function that “redirects your eyes’ focus to the camera as well as the increasing amount of deep fake videos that with convincingly-crafted celebrity simulations presenting us with invented statements.” These digitally-mediated interactions undermine our trust with technology and our “senses to access reality”, thus making the issue a deep-dive into the challenges posed from this concept.
In comparison to past issues, the fifth has seen an updated format in order to connect the content of the physical publication to the virtual environment. As such, the team has commissioned a selection of young artists, including Giusy Amoroso, Harriet Favey and Omega.C to create a face filter contribution that can be used on Instagram. Additionally, this issue draws more attention to what they call ‘comments’: “It’s a small comment from a contributor on another one’s piece, inserted right next to the referred text or below,” explains Karolien. “We imagined it as if you’d skim through someone else’s side notes on the publication, triggering an individual thinking process by you as the reader.”
It’s a complex theme no less, but the team have constructively made it easier to navigate with a system that guides you through the publication in “the order of the responsive chain”, says Florian. “Sometimes you will be skipping some pages and end up going back to them. Actually, the whole order of this publication has been turned around; you start from the back, with the latest contribution, and then you go back in time.” A discombobulating navigating system is most fitting for the theme of Virtual Vertigo, as you’re quite literally spanning pages that appear to be moving or spinning around you.
Filled with an eclectic mix of of content, the issue sees a fusion of content created by poets, musicians, graphic designers, 3D artists, a “noir thriller writer”, a neuroscientist, a painter, and even a priest. As for the design, the team are always excited by the prospect of working from scratch. Supporting the content, the design has been lifted to create their own visual world. “All of the publications have a similar feeling and style – of course, they all share the extraordinarily tall format – but each is unique,” says Monika, explaining how they find it difficult to imagine the design as a fixed grid. Instead the team use a template that was designed to create an all-over look beforehand, used as a base to which the content is adapted to. “Our design is neutral,” she continues, “it should provoke thinking and translate what we feel when we read through the pages.” Of course dizzying at times, the team explain how they want it to feel as if you’re being pulled into the pages while you’re reading, “a feeling that you’ve been led astray”.
The topic of a virtual reality comes at a highly relevant time. As we all turn to our computers and various apps to connect with one another, the question of reality and its relationship with tech has never been so questionable. Thankfully, we have physical publications like NXS to try and help us navigate through this strange, new and digital world.
GalleryNXS #5: Virtual Virtigo
NXS#5 Virtual Vertigo cover. Design by Monika Grūzīte, Florian Mecklenburg and Karolien Buurman. Photo by Veronika Vidø