White Fungus

february 20, 2010.

I recently got White Fungus in the mail.

isa ho

White Fungus magazine started out in 2004, in Wellington, New Zealand, as a photocopied political pamphlet against the mayor, written and hand-distributed by brothers Ron and Mark Hanson at the occasion of upcoming local elections. It developed from there into a bi-annual experimental arts magazine, with an overt and outspoken political tone, and a - related - DIY attitude. This, its 11th, issue came about after the relocation of the Hanson brothers to Taichung City, on yet another island: that of Taiwan. The issue's release event, on the 14th of january, took place as a hostess project evening at the P.P.O.W. Gallery in New York.

It's a small world, we know...

white fungus

White Fungus is not your average art magazine. The 128 thin paper pages stapled inside the mag's cover breath that undeniable 'zine'-feel. When first thumbing through it, quickly glancing at some of the titles and pictures, it brought on memories of xerox days. And I put it down again, with a smile.

I kept picking it up every now and then, though. For, somehow, White Fungus grew on me...

Parts of it are pretty tough reading (and I mean not just that one article written fully in Taiwanese, on a band [or is it an art collective?] called Subjam). The issue opens with a critical (of course) but also pretty dry, stiff and factual history of the economic politics of New Zealand, roughly between 1984 and 1999. Some of the shorter articles, like Harold Grieves' review of The Coming Insurrection, jump in medias res, without introduction, context or explanation. And then suddenly one hits upon Walter Benjamin's 1939 essay "On the Concept of History", also without further explanation or even indication as to the origin of the translation of this (admittedly clear and important) historical paper.

There is a short, one-page, editorial introduction at the very beginning, elaborating the fact that 2009 has been 'a pathetic year for hope, peace and change'. It ends with a quote of Chris Hedges: "Obama is not the problem. We are."
After these words, that rang frank and true, I looked in vain for a somewhat more general mission statement. Or maybe just a list of names and emails of editors, contributing writers, or even just an address or an email where to reach White Fungus and its staff. Where to ring in, would I wish to subscribe? True, all of this is easily found on the web. (In the uTube, you see the editors being interviewed for the Auckland based World TV. In Taiwanese... I especially like the end sequence, with the White Fungus tins. I can't understand what is being said, but it looks and sounds real food great :-) ..) But for some reason, none of it is printed.

Apart from politics and visual arts, there's also a lot on music. Like much of the rest (maybe with exception of "For the earth to live, capitalism must die", Juan Santos' desperate fire-and-brimstone sermon on the mag"s final pages) also the articles on music are not written in the most virtuosic and captivating kind of prose. All of it is very informative, though, and brought with passion: the story of Japanese 'king of noise' Jojo Hiroshege; a useful and concise overview of the rise of non-academic experimental musics in the new China; an article by Tobias Fisher on Miya Masaoka's work (that I found a bit too admiring in tone, but nevertheless got me up and go listen to her work); and another one by Tobias, interviewing Robert Voisey, initiator of the the 60 x 60 project.
Best for me in the music category worked "Holes in the System and the Incompleteness of Tradition", an interview with improviser David Watson (living in New York since 1987 but originally from New Zealand) that I saw blowing the bagpipes in Paris with Rhys Chatman about two years ago.


Overall, the process and result of my struggle with this small pack of paper were both curious and interesting.
White Fungus proved to be stubborn.
But so am I.
And neither the one nor the other wanted to give in.
It was therefore that I found myself reading the printed paper, while surfing extensively on the web in order to get all sorts of supplementary information that would enable me to place the things I read about on the printed magazine pages in somewhat of a broader context. Which led me from more details on Japanese noise and Taiwanese visual artists via aborigines and the geography of New Zealand, to world politics and the adding of Don Novello's The Lazlo Letters to my Amazon wishlist.

It was a multifaceted experience. White Fungus kept spreading.


As a bonus, there is the CD that comes with this 11th issue. On it you will find 15 tracks taken from the catalogue of the New York based Pogus Productions. They were selected by Pogus boss Al Margolis (aka If, Bwana). Some viewers may remember Al from the early days of cassette culture and the Sound of Pig cassette label. And I do think Al's curriculum, taste and experience help to explain why this CD is the little gem that it is, with strong but very divers work by, for example, Annea Lockwood (Thousand Year Dreaming - breathing and dreaming), Jorge Antunes (Cinta Cita), Nick Didkovsky (She Closes Her Sister With Heavy Bones), Beth Anderson (Torero Piece) and Tom Hamilton & Bruce Eisenbell (Mars Fell On Alabama).
Just to name a couple that I particularly liked. For there's hardly a weak spot to be found in Al's compilation.

"Ze zijn alle 15 goed!", the Dutchman inside whispered to me.

Let there be no doubt about that.

tags: White Fungus, New Zealand, New York, Taiwan

# .351.

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