Lachlan Taylor is the current editor of Essays on ArtNow.NZ, taking over from Tendai John Mutambu, who launched the new platform and saw it through its first six months until September 2021.
In taking up the editorship Lachlan acknowledges the landscape for writing in Aotearoa New Zealand has changed since the platform’s inception in February 2021. At that point there was a dearth of opportunities, with the collapse of print media in the wake of the pandemic. But now, as local publishing has bounced back, bringing new opportunities for arts writers, he plans to complement what is on offer by commissioning texts that “directly address the health, politics and future of our sector through the essay form”, by offering a supportive framework for nurturing new writers, and by tapping into the “world of brilliant writing and thinking in Aotearoa” both within and beyond the arts community.
At the outset of his role as editor, Lachlan offered the following position statement:
ArtNow Essays has published nine pieces since launching in March this year. As a collection, they have already moved in interesting ways and to unexpected places. Most have begun as direct responses to exhibitions or artists, but almost all have moved with their subjects into ground where good writing asks good questions—of being and belonging, sovereignty and representation, memory and understanding.
Of course, this isn’t an accident. Under Tendai Mutambu’s editorship, the platform has sought to elevate writing that goes beyond the simple explanation of the press release or the reactive opinion of the review. I’m exceptionally privileged to take up the work Tendai has put in to building and growing this platform, and to take it into a new phase.
The arts writing landscape has changed considerably since ArtNow Essays was conceived. A number of platforms have been established that devote regular space to arts coverage in Aotearoa. I don’t believe this fundamentally affects the kaupapa of ArtNow Essays, which remains to be a space for high-quality, independent arts writing in this country. But I think it helps to define our aspirations for the platform and the niche ArtNow Essays holds for the community. As commissioning editor, my aspirations for the platform can be split into two broad camps:
Great writing requires great writers. In the arts in Aotearoa, there is still so much more we can do to foster and support emerging writers. This platform can be a part of that process by bringing writers through a rigorous process with exacting standards. And by meeting our authors with genuine care—throughout the publishing process and after. I want writing for ArtNow to be the exemplar of what a professional arts writing commission should be like in Aotearoa.
This means multiple things to me. In one sense, it’s expanding our content by being ambitious about what a platform like this can deliver. Alongside the kind of response-based and personal essays that ArtNow has already published, I want to push the scope of our pieces into areas that directly address the health, politics, and future of our sector through the essay form. This also means expanding the kinds of writers we engage and subsequently the kinds of audiences we reach. I want to tap into the world of brilliant writing and thinking in Aotearoa that doesn’t come from directly within the fine arts community. There’s a lot of high calibre writing that goes on in this country, and if we hope to promote the best of its kind with this platform, I think that bringing different kinds of writer into this space is essential. What expansion doesn’t mean, is abandoning the core principles and purposes of this platform: a space for good writing about art, artists, and the sector.
I’m excited about this platform, what it’s already achieved and its potential for the future, and its role in shaping how we think about arts writing and its place in Aotearoa.
Lachlan is currently completing his MA in Creative Writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington. This is providing him with new technical and creative tools as a writer to add to the skills he has developed since completing a Masters in Art History also at Victoria University in 2018.
Following his role as the inaugural Adam Art Gallery Intern, working towards an exhibition and publication on the New Zealand works of Christopher Perkins, Lachlan went on to take up the Assistant Curator role at Artspace Aotearoa in 2019, and then worked at Michael Lett until returning to Wellington Te Whanganui-a-Tara. His writing has been published in Art + Australia, Art News New Zealand, Art New Zealand and The Pantograph Punch.
Tendai John Mutambu, the first editor of the ArtNow.NZ essays, is a curator, writer, film programmer, and editor based in Tamaki Makaurau Auckland. He is now contemporary curator at Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery. Until his return to New Zealand in 2021, he was Assistant Curator, Commissions and Public Programmes at Spike Island in Bristol, UK. He has previously worked as Programming Fellow at Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival where he curated Artist in Focus: Marwa Arsanios; and as Assistant Curator, Contemporary at Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre. Projects include: The Conch #22 at South London Gallery (forthcoming, March 2021); WE ARE HERE, a series of five film programmes and installations of Artists’ Moving Image from the British Council and LUX collections touring internationally from 2019 to 2022; Twenty-Two Hours at ICA London as part of the BFI London Film Festival (2018); Sriwhana Spong a hook but no fish (2018), David Clegg loca projects / correction (2017); Projection Series 8: The Long Dream of Waking (2017) curated with Sarah Wall; Projection Series 7: First as Fiction, Then as Myth (2017) curated with Sophie O’Brien; Potentially Yours, The Coming Community (2016). Tendai has written for Frieze, Ocula Magazine, Runway Journal of Contemporary Art, ICA London, the British Film Institute, LUX Moving Image, Art News New Zealand, Art New Zealand and several exhibition catalogues including, most recently, Zac Langdon Pole’s Art Journey (2019).