Kiwi arts showcased at Taipei exhibition

Fun guys: White Fungus magazine founders Ron and Mark Hanson at their favourite cafe, No. 13 Cafe in Nantun, Taichung City.

Fun guys: White Fungus magazine founders Ron and Mark Hanson at their favourite cafe, No. 13 Cafe in Nantun, Taichung City.

What started as a protest against the Wellington inner-city bypass has turned into an international publishing business for two capital ex-pats.

Taipei-based editors Ron and Mark Hanson have been commissioned to produce a special bilingual magazine showcasing left-field Kiwi arts, music and history at the Taipei International Book Exhibition, one of the largest book fairs in Asia.

New Zealand is the guest of honour at next year's exhibition and three of our best and brightest artists will be featured in the Hansons' special edition of Subconscious Restaurant and will visit Taiwan for the event.

While the magazine, and sister publication White Fungus, can now boast sales everywhere from Wellington's Adam Art Gallery to London's Tate Modern, the brothers found themselves in the editing game almost by accident.

Their impetus to start White Fungus in 2003 was in protest at Wellington's inner-city bypass, which was to displace much of the artists' district of upper Cuba St.

The pair wanted to get the word out about the importance of the area, Ron said.

"We wanted to write about the history of Cuba St - everyone seemed to be forgetting," he said.

"I profiled a lot of the artists that were being kicked out of their studios, including Taika Waititi, Bret McKenzie, Plan 9 who did The Lord of the Rings soundtrack."

Ron admits the first edition of 400 copies was a bit of a rush job.

"The first issue was made on a photocopier . . . We just threw ourselves in and learnt on the job." Over the 12 later editions, White Fungus has morphed from its protest roots into an international arts, culture and political showcase.

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Ron hoped the book fair publication would help to teach the wider world a little bit more about Kiwi culture. One article would focus on the country's DIY approach to music production over the years.

There was a lot of interest in New Zealand's "oddball talents", Ron said. He saw it as perfect timing to introduce these to the Taipei literary and culture world.

 - The Dominion Post

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