During his interview with Claudia Rankine in this issue, Kayo Chingonyi raises the subject of what role the arts might play in a period of ‘national emergency’. Discussing artists’ responses to recent tragedies, the two poets agree that ‘to think of [art] as something that happens in seclusion from lived experience feels wrongheaded in the world we live in’. As we put this issue together, this idea has been greatly on our minds, and it resonates throughout the magazine. In her piece exploring the ethical implications of prisoners’ visual representations, Hatty Nestor asks ‘how empathy could materialise as visual art’; we hope that the pieces which follow share a spirit of enquiry, compassion and engagement with our complicated times.
The past few months – since our fabled summer party on the rooftop of Bold Tendencies, when hundreds crowded onto hay bales to hear Claire-Louise Bennett’s mesmerising reading – have been a period of transition at The White Review. This issue appears in a brand new design by Thomas Swann; it is the first under a new editorial team led by Željka Marošević and Francesca Wade. We have launched an anthology, featuring highlights from the magazine’s first twenty issues, and a poet’s prize (the winning portfolio, by Lucy Mercer, will be published in Issue 22). In response to a growing concern at the shrinking number of outlets providing accessible and incisive arts coverage, we’ve begun publishing regular reviews of new books and exhibitions online, alongside poetry, fiction, interviews and essays. We’ve hatched plans for events across the UK, established new collaborations, and designed some enviable tote bags, now for sale on our revamped website.
In this issue, the personal and the political collide in bold and unexpected ways. Speaking in advance of her major Tate Modern retrospective, Joan Jonas reflects on a growing sense of environmental consciousness in her performance and installation work. Alev Scott reports from the Balkans on the legacy of the Ottoman Empire, while Megan Hunter explores the connections (physical and psychical) between writing and pregnancy. We are delighted to present fiction and poetry from a range of new and established voices, traversing far-flung realms, from the nocturnal Berlin of Johanna Hedva’s ‘Jonah’ (where the protagonist’s attempts to ‘recuperate’ are thwarted by a forgotten name and a yeast infection), to the newly inhabited island of Sascha Macht’s ‘The Horror’, where the teenage narrator’s morbid fascination with horror films mirrors the dystopia emerging in his own life. We’re also thrilled to present the first in a new series of roundtable conversations – see p. 26 for more on this new venture for the magazine.
It’s an immense privilege to be invited to build on the work of Ben Eastham and Jacques Testard, whose formidable vision, editorial eye and logistical flair have made this magazine a home for the most ambitious and innovative writing over the past seven years. We hope you’ll find the same values prevail in the writing and art present here, as we embark on an exciting new era for The White Review.