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White Fungus

img  Tobias

A fried of mine who lives in The Hague has a knack for magazines. Just loves the idea of how a well-crafted publication can open an entire world for you each month. How the combination of word and image, as primitive as it may seem in a digital world, is still able to draw you in completely. We were having a nice hot cup of fruit tea in soem cafe the middle of the night, as he was telling me this and quite possibly he didn’t have his number entirely right. But even accounting for some slight inconsistencies, buying 10-15 different mags each month – as he claimed he did - is a lot. I was suprised and fascinated at the same time, but didn’t give this story much thought. Until I was sent a nice little package with a stamp from far away. It included the latest two copies of “White Fungus”. I started reading and couldn’t stop. It was in this instance that I knew what my friend had meant.

“White Fungus” comes from Wellington, New Zealand. A country most who have been there have characterised as the closest thing to the good old Garden of Eden. The place of refuge, which turned Proto-Punk, Proto-Gothic and Proto-Metal pioneer Jaz Coleman of Killing Joke into a symphonic composer. A tribal society, that has become the good example for many that democracy can be refreshed and replenished. Even the editors of “White Fungus” agree that “New Zealand is doing well” and that it has a “thriving arts scene”. Their own project is perfect proof of this.

First of all: This is not exclusively a Music Mag. In fact, quite a lot of space is taken up by adjacent arts – film, painting, photography. There’s an interview with Korean-born film- and computer artist Hye Rim Lee, who turned from a career as an opera singer to a visual artist after an operation to remove her tonsils went terribly wrong. Her virtual TOKI character personifies different aspects of the female character and questions extrescences of modern society (such as plastic surgery). Issue four even features a free DVD containing three short movies displaying the whole range and variety of the scene – there’s a jazzy confusion in “Whater cooler”, industrial desolation in “City of Piss” and the otherwordly beauty of the only two and a half minute long “Fog and Mirrors”. Considering this very issue was given away for free, one can not help but lamenting that nothing of the sort has sprung up in Europe.


Thrown in between the cultural articles are features on politics and the countries history – such as a report of the New Zealand company, which planned on building a perfect British society on Maori soil. And with the arrival of issue 5, literature has started making an impact as well: There’s an absolutely brilliant and in-depth reportage on W.B. Sutch, “an intellectual giant in a country characterised by  aculture of anti-intellectualism” (meaning New Zealand in the 50s, 60s and 70s) as well as a short story by Ernie Kozar.

Music does play a key role, though. There’s a well-done retrospect on “Experimental Dance Music in the New Millenium”, taking the route from Kraftwerk to Aphex Twin and allowing some personal favourites on board as well (Dutch electro-hero I-F, Japanese MU, who have been describes as “Punk Music to dance to). Arnie Clap’s highly subjective report on Noise is not only extremely entertaining, but offers some great tips for underground acts, which you will never have heard of, but sound fascinating enough to check out – of “Black Dice” he writes: “Making mayhem on the dance floor, while others stand in amazement. Black Dice set the night awash in a wall of amplifiers. It’s like sleeping in a factory. SUDDENLY YOU’RE IN A FIELD”. Best, still, is a short, but thrilling interview with “artist”, “musician” and “trouble maker” Jeffrey John Henderson: “Listen to the birds chirping in the trees. All we’re doing is putting a frame around certain things that are already there.”

There’s two aspects to “White Fungus” that make it especially appealing to everyone interested in the arts. Firstly, it is a perfect example of how local phenomena can take on a universal meaning in a connected world. This mag, despite dealing with some artists from overseas, is clearly focussed on New Zealand. There’s even some reports on cafes and clubs located in Wellington. Yet, despite its local character, this only serves to make it more interesting: You’re drawn in by these atmospheric pictures and descriptions and you realize that so much more awaits discovery. What touches our daily radars, even in the underground scene of your city, the country you live in or even of underground WebZines is merely a tiny fragment of the richness of daily-unfolding culture all over the planet. Instead of building up a dream-world you’ll only get to see if you buy yourself a 3.000$ Plain ticket, “White Fungus” makes you see your surroundings with different eyes and want to explore your own artistic environment – sure enough, it is equally rich and facinating.  And secondly, these often relatively short articles are an active opposition to the information-model – instead of feeding you with knowledge, they spark the fire of inspiration and the desire to go out and explore for yourself. It knows that awareness comes into being through active involvement and not by preaching or lecturing. After having read through it all, the search goes on – in fact, it has only just begun. Truly, one could hardly ask more of a mag. Chances are, you will not have heard of a single of the featured artists beforehand. Afterwards, you will want to know more and more about them. And, by all means, try to, they’re worth it.

Copies of “White Fungus” can be obtained outside of New Zealand on a subscription basis (40$ for four issues, including postage to wherever you are). Browse over to the ‘Zines’ webpage for further info and some articles, sounds and movies. The only one complaining will be my friend from The Hague – this will be yet another mag he’ll have to buy.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: White Fungus Arts Magazine

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