-- Let’s start with a brief introduction to Vice and Vice Japan.
Vice started in 1994 in Toronto, Canada with the free zine Vice Magazine. In the years since then, Vice has grown into a global media group with branches in 35 cities around the world, delivering entertainment through all sorts of channels like the magazine, digital content, videos, and events. After a brief hiatus Vice Japan was re-launched in December 2012 as the Japanese branch of the company and focuses mainly on creating videos and articles for platforms like VICE.com
and the Vice Japan YouTube channel
--Tell us a bit about the concept and highlights of the exhibition.
This exhibition was inspired by the Japanese version of Vice Magazine that we published a limited run of last year November. Vice releases an annual photo issue that features contributions from both upcoming photographers active on the global scene that year as well as those known for their legendary work. Each time there is a different theme and contributors are allowed to run wild with in their photos.
The theme this time around was “artist collaborations,” so we paired up photographers who fit the Vice style with artists from different genres to create images together. We used one-third of the content from the American version, and then added another 16 people from Japan and 2 from China, so in the end we have an issue where over half of the pages are original Japanese content.
Magazines traditionally release new issues once a month, or perhaps each season. A magazine that is set to appear and disappear within a month is easily forgotten once its time has passed. I guess one way of putting it is that having a lifespan of just one month is what makes it possible to create the perfect stage for having fun. That’s why we were able to get the contributors to really cut loose with their most freeform ideas that they don’t get to use normally. By placing maximum importance on everyone having a good time while they worked, we were able to change the equation of simply bringing two artists together and saw creativity that was many times greater.
--Was there anything you found difficult or had to keep hush-hush when putting together the exhibition?
As I mentioned before, the project originated in the idea of doing a magazine, but it was already decided in the preliminary stages that we were also going to hold an exhibition. We couldn’t just think of things in two dimensions like we would with a magazine - we needed creative vision that would also look just as good in a three-dimensional space. So, it was necessary for me as the editor to set signposts to guide the contributing artists as they worked.
Also, since the theme was collaboration, we of course had the situation of two artists working on one piece. I think of artists as people who originally are engaged in a sort of “single person media” where they can transmit their ideas and emotions at maximum energy. So, it wasn’t easy to ask the artists to take part in a one-time collaboration. We needed to provide them with some sort of incentive to work together. That’s why we gave them chances to meet so that each piece came together carefully.
It was a question of how we could get the best flavor from the recipe of two artists working together while still keeping the image of the two venues of the magazines and exhibition in mind. Looking back on it, this is probably what required the most thought in making the show happen.
--Tell us a bit about the Vice Photo Issue itself. How did you decide upon things like the publishing process and the message you wanted to convey, as well as select the artists and collaborative teams?
Vice Japan’s reboot in 2012 was actually a reboot in a completely digital media format. Our intent was to avoid the recent decline of print media, so we went with a video format made our YouTube channel our main point of presentation. I think there’s no way you can compare the clearly massive reaction we have received in such a short time with that of Vice Japan when it was just a magazine. That said, our starting point will always remain the original Vice magazine.
Since it was founded all the way up to today, Vice has always remained free of charge. This is of course something is near and dear to a digital format, so it could be that Vice using vice.com and the YouTube channel as a delivery platform was an inevitability. But, it is still our mission to do a magazine. The free magazine Vice is about youth. When we pick it up and flip through the pages, it instantly frees us from all the mundane pain, worries, and sadness in our day-to-day lives and allows us to slip back in time to the freedom of our adolescence. I think that is something that is hard capture in the digital world where “free” is taken for granted and anyone can get anything.
We aren’t in it for the money at Vice. The limited number of copies is what makes the photo issue exclusive. You can’t buy it with money, so only the people who kept themselves tuned were able to get a copy. The experiences of tracking down the magazine are in way like fishing or bug catching back when we were kids. That big beetle you caught all by yourself is an irreplaceable treasure. That’s why we have had an endless stream of cries to bring back the Vice magazine since it has been out of publication for two years. The photo issue came into being as our way of responding to this feeling.
--Are there any people you would to interview or things you would like to cover someday?
Interviews come about because of the person being interviewed, so the interviewer doesn’t need to be anyone special. That’s why as long as we have the historical background and proper nouns relating to that person as prerequisite knowledge or a shared language, we can interview them simply by communicating as we would in any other conversation. So, it could be that we have already gone to speak with them before we even start thinking “someday.”
That said, I’m not the only person at Vice, so it’s the rest of the Vice staff in other countries who are meeting the people I want to meet and doing the things I want to do. But if we set all that aside for a bit, I guess my answer would be “aliens.” I’d like to jump on a spaceship and do some reporting on other planets.
We once put out a Film Issue that featured an essay called “The Documentary Crisis.” It was about the simple questions of why humans are so obsessed with continually making video documentaries, and who they are making them for. The conclusion was that we are making them to explain the human race to extraterrestrials. The article was meant to be a humorous criticism of documentaries, but ever since I read I’ve started to wonder sometimes if aliens are really the ones running Vice. That explains the mystery of why Vice is able to distribute all of its content for free (this is the question that I get asked the most since I started at Vice). It could be that we here at Vice have been given some sort of massive, global-scale mission...
--Do you have another issue or any other projects lined up?
We’re considering doing another Japanese version of the photo issue for 2014. We’ve also got videos that are even more intense than what’s up on the YouTube channel now, so make sure you stay tuned in.