“We were both dissatisfied with the landscape of print and digital media at the time SORT Zine was conceived – feeds clogged up with impossibly pristine beauty bloggers and beach-body-ready selfies – so, sick of the facade of a version of perfection we didn’t identify with, we set out to present something free of the filters, a project centred on the severe. We wanted to approach the project in a fanzine kind of way mixing art with fashion, and weirder stuff with a lo-fi aesthetic, which at the time most magazines were reluctant to publish. The past couple of years have definitely seen a change though,” says lauded creative duo SORT studio, in the preface to their newly released publication, The Cult Issue.
In this vein, co-founders Joseph Delaney and Matt King, refute but don’t entirely dismiss the role of digital, “I’d say digital media is close to reaching saturation point. It’s almost an exact reflection of the sensationalist tabloid era, when I first learned what media was. With print, it’s removed from that at least a little, and as a zine we’re sold in gallery shops or bookstores so it’s a different context, albeit a smaller audience.”
“Historically zines have been instrumental in driving progression. Early British and American punk, and later movements like Riot Grrl and queer art scenes in New York and San Francisco, thrived on self-publishing to communicate messages and bring together like minds, and we definitely see ourselves as a continuation of that tradition. As for today, though, we understand the zine is speaking to a very specific audience and preaching to the converted in many ways, which is why this issue comes with a concurrent, equally weighted film that tells this same narrative. The internet can be a vile thing, but the power to reach people around the world can’t be ignored, and the thought of someone in a small town in Middle America, or Russia, or Chechnya, or China (firewalls permitting) seeing what we’re doing and knowing a little more that the world doesn’t have to be the way it looks right now, that they can wear what they want to wear, watch what they want to watch, be who they want to be, etc. is pretty much the only thing keeping me personally from throwing myself under a bus each morning.”
The first two issues of SORT Zine relied solely on visuals to guide readers through the narrative. “The necessary addition of text to deliver a more complex narrative for Issue 3 is a reaction to our increasingly turbulent surroundings”.
“Where the last issue was about presenting an unedited, no-holds-barred vision of the world that we live in, one rooted in equality, inclusivity and free expression, the new issue is looking outward at what is truly severe – those things that hide in plain sight under the cover of normality. It’s an attempt to condense and retell the global social and political narrative in an allegorical tale about the rise and fall of a fictional cult, the link there being fairly obvious. The project has always been about trying to bring together likeminded people so it seemed a fitting way to articulate our ideas.”
“What’s happening on a global level has affected our whole approach in ways we’d never have predicted. This issue is themed The Cult Issue, a word banded around a lot in fashion and magazine publishing, but something we’ve interpreted and presented literally. It’s been deeply unsettling to see power in the West move to a place of intolerance I genuinely never thought I’d have to live through. With this new narrative, we’ve worked with external contributors in a way we’ve not before. We reached out to people connected to our mission and also the cult narrative, from photographer Derek Ridgers who has been quietly documenting the corners of the UK’s subcultures for decades, Russian artist and LGBT activist Slava Mogutin, to Rose McGowan, who escaped the Children of God sect as a child only to enter a different kind of oppressive cult-like sphere, but who has turned these experiences around to shed light on the patriarchal hypocrisies of Hollywood and assemble her own movement rooted in celebrating difference.”
To see more from SORT Studio or to buy a copy of The Cult Issue (available from 8 June) visit www.sort-studio.co.uk.