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February 26, 2014

The Gathering

Tilda Swinton and Sandro Kopp Host a Star-Studded Cultural Festival in the Maldives

A community of playful souls spent five days at Tilda Swinton and painter Sandro Kopp’s most recent gathering, which marooned 20 mercurial figures on an archipelago in the Indian Ocean in December of last year. Guests included Michael Stipe, Natasha Khan, Haider Ackermann, Waris Ahluwalia, Ryan McGinley and Buzz Aldrin, who were treated to a programme of film screenings, discussions and performances that were captured by photographer Ruediger Glatz. Check the picture credits for some diaristic insights, while below Swinton writes exclusively for NOWNESS of the inspiration behind the event in Soneva Fushi, Maldives

In Ayurvedic teaching there are five elements; air, fire, water, earth and SPACE. Space, not just the gap between other things, the cement between the bricks in life, is a brick in its own right, and an essential one. This concept was only brought to my attention recently, although I realize I have been feeling my way towards it for a while.

Since 2008, I have been proud to be involved—with a variety of blessed collaborators—in setting up a series of events, two in the Highlands of Scotland where I live, one in Beijing and also one in Thailand. Each one is preemptively unique and intended to be unrepeated. Happenings, drawing together elements—either randomly by setting an open invitation or by curating a specific group of participants—to inspire a particular kind of atmosphere conducive to tickling up the kind of space we otherwise find it difficult to catch.
 
I recognize that these events are somehow chapters in one long rambling experiment spilling out of my own head, happily met by my playmates—principally and throughout, my sweetheart Sandro Kopp, in Scotland and China, my pal Mark Cousins and the wonderful Apichatpong Weerasethakul for our Film on the Rocks adventure on Yao Noi in 2011.

What started with the idea of a film festival in Nairn, with the Ballerina Ballroom Cinema of Dreams—free entrance for home-baking and costume appropriate to the film, bean bags and deck chairs, pre-screening rock-out dancing—became within the course of one baptismal day a community project, a social intervention, something more about the collaborative experience than the programming of a few film titles could ever hope to reach. The following year, A Pilgrimage involved forty dedicated ‘Pilgrims’—and many more along the road—pulling our 43-ton mobile cinema across the Highlands and forging the joy experiment further.
 
Curating the latest adventure in this line this last December, our Gathering on Soneva Fushi was primarily a curation of people, and laying on a treasure hunt. Putting down a trail of breadcrumbs in the forest, the first of which was the letter of invitation we sent them, suggesting a long journey to a pocket idyll, we invited a group of 20 fellow artists to gather on this magical island in the Maldives to kick back, show films, shoot the breeze, make new alliances, create a piece of work together, be barefoot, snorkel, explore, discover, sleep, eat and dance. Nothing was asked of participants but that they come with open hearts and minds bring with them one item—their ‘Message in a Bottle’—a film, a book, a poem, a song, a drawing, a story, an object to share with the group and leave as a gift to the island when they go.
 
Each day had an elemental theme as a basic guiding principle for this unfolding treasure hunt: Space, Land, Us, Sea and Air. Over the course of these days we completed the specially designed ‘Eye’ mosaic at the heart of the cinema, as an exercise in communal creation for the group and as a permanent gift to the island from the artists. There were discussions, exchanges of ideas, drawing on the refreshment of shared experience. We were treated to a presentation by Buzz Aldrin and a tour of Soneva Fushi’s eco centre: an extraordinary example of effective waste management and the resort’s pioneering work in the field of responsible tourism. All of us being participants meant that we shared the curation of our nightly cinema screenings.

Our Gathering only existed because Soneva Fushi, created by the truly generous and inspired hands of Sonu Shivdasani and Eva Malström, is a territory specifically designed according to the precepts of slow life, providing the greatest and simplest of all modern luxuries: peace, ease, communion, awareness, responsibility, joy.

What started seven years ago as a cinema-centered concept has grown through the looking glass into a transformative kind of magic carpet ride: anchored not in the virtual, but in the lived experience, shared and authentic and present. Ramshackle rocks to ramshackle rolls, via a slow boat to China to the barefoot tropical island paradise. Onwards. Watch this Space. Keep looking up. Mind the gap.
 
Tilda Swinton, Scotland, January 2014

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Spotlight

Secret Cities: Singapore

Up-and-Coming Model Chen Yu Reveals the Most Desirable Destinations in Southeast Asia’s Urban Paradise

Model Chen Yu explores the ultra-modern skyscrapers, Chinese Baroque pavilions and pastel European townhouses in her temporary hometown of Singapore along with photographer and creative director Shiraz Randeria. Hotly tipped to become the next big thing in Chinese fashion, the fresh-faced muse took on the palm-tree lined city state to develop her portfolio, which already includes shoots for Vogue and Elle China. Randeria’s images capture her enjoying the dynamic mix of cultures—predominantly English, Malay, Chinese and Indian—that inform Singapore’s architecture, cuisine and curious local lingo, Singlish. In the hybrid parlance “Basket!” is an exclamation of frustration, while referring to someone as “zai” means they know how to keep cool under pressure. “Singapore is a surprisingly relaxed city,” says Randeria. “Even though it’s rich and business-like, don’t go expecting the incessant global bustle of Central Hong Kong.” Here Chen shares her discoveries beneath the many roofs of the vibrant “Sin City” of the Southeast.

Ku De Ta
This DJ bar and restaurant sits on the 57th floor SkyPark at the top of the Marina Bay Sands. Singapore’s best place to go for a sundowner—they have great Asian-influenced martinis—and watching the city lights come on.
1 Bayfront Avenue, Marina Bay Sands SkyPark, Singapore 018971

Rasa Spa, Siloso Beach
Where I go for Thémaé tea facials and massages. It’s also right by the beach so I can go for a swim. I came here after last year’s fantastic ZoukOut music festival —a great relaxation session after an all-night party.
Shangri-La Hotel, 101 Siloso Road, Sentosa Island, Singapore 098970

Haji Lane
A small and colorful street full of modern independent fashion boutiques and Egyptian bars, this is in the middle of the Kampong Glam neighborhood, with the large golden-topped Sultan Mosque at one end. It’s a fun place to shop and browse, especially at K.I.N. at  51 Haji Lane, which stocks interesting local labels and fashion magazines. 
Haji Lane, Singapore 189244

Geylang Road Durians
Although it’s known for being the red light district, it’s also where you can get the best durian fruit—the creamy varieties you can get here in Singapore are the best I’ve ever had. I can easily eat two in a go. They range from S$2 to S$28 each and don’t stink at all—maybe just a feint whiff of marker pen. Eat them with mangosteens, they complement each other really well. I can recommend one large fruit stand, which also do fresh coconuts to drink.
Fruit stand on the corner of Geylang Road, Lorong 19

Lau Pa Sat
Unlike other Asian cities, Singapore has banned street food stands, so instead there are many quality controlled hawker centers. Forget restaurants—this is where to find real local Peranakan dishes—a fusion of Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisines. Lau Pa Sat is the city’s historic and beautiful Victorian wet market, now renovated with food stalls. My favorite are the amazing skewered king prawns outside on the side stands—numbers S7 and S8. It’s called Best Satay. 
18 Raffles Quay, Singapore 048582

Actually
One of Singapore’s best boutiques has two stores near each other, both close to Haji Lane. It’s a friendly place, and great for international street brands such as BOY, plus accessories and collections from local designers.
29A Seah Street, Singapore  188385 and 118A Arab Street, Singapore 199813

Gillman Barracks
A 10-minute taxi ride from the city center and you’re in these whitewashed army barracks, seemingly in the middle of the jungle. It opened in September as the city’s new contemporary art hub and there are galleries from around the world, although mainly from Asia. It’s a little quiet at the moment, but more galleries are moving in this month.
9 Lock Road, Singapore 10893

New Majestic Hotel
This boutique hotel sits in the middle of historic Chinatown down a quiet lane. The full glass front is always open to the street during the day—the lobby has a great pop-up bookstore and an elegant mismatch of furniture. Upstairs, each room is different, many done up by local designers. It’s chilled out, friendly and also a walkable distance to Club Street, the upmarket nightlife and bar area of Chinatown.
31 Bukit Pasoh Road, Singapore 089845

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Spotlight

Secret Cities: Montreal

The Tastemaking Peart Twins Share Their Guide to the Modern Canadian Mecca

From of-the-moment concept stores to bustling oyster counters, Canada's cultural capital is made ultra-relevant by twins Dexter and Byron Peart, style blog fixtures and founders of the covetable luggage and accessories label WANT Les Essentiels de la Vie. Combining old world quality standards with 21st-century technological savvy, the Peart duo has collaborated with Opening Ceremony, J.Crew and New York’s NoMad Hotel, in addition to representing brands like Acne and Fillipa K. via their creative agencywork that keeps them on the go. "Travel takes people out of their daily routine and allows them to discover, experience and explore," the brothers explain of their attraction to the genre. "It was the lack of luggage for the new, more technological lifestyle that first drew us in." The team is also behind WANT Apothecary, a storefront in Montreal’s historic Golden Square Mile district offering a selection of luggage, menswear and grooming products and modeled after a 19th-century pharmacy. "We are constantly inspired by our environment," the Pearts say of their home base, "and Montreal, a UNESCO City of Design, is a city that geographically and philosophically exists as a hybrid of European and American lifestyle and tastes." Here photographed by Alexi Hobbs, the style-setters reveal the essential corners of their modern metropolis.

Hotel Gault 
Superb boutique hotel in a majestic building conveniently located in Old Montreal, yet discreetly tucked away on a quiet side street, away from the hustle and bustle.
449, rue Sainte-Hélène, Montréal, QC, H2Y 2K9; Tel: 514-904-1616

Les Touilleurs
We never thought we could get excited about cooking utensils until this fantastic specialty kitchen boutique opened. We have since replaced everything in our kitchen. 
152, avenue Laurier Ouest, Montréal, QC, H2T 2N7; Tel: 514-278-0008

Joe Beef
The lobster spaghetti is epic.
2491, rue Notre-Dame Ouest, Montréal, QC, H3J 1N6; Tel: 514-313-6049

Couleurs
This is our favorite haunt in Montreal for collecting mid-century antiques. The owners Andre and Lambert have a keen eye and have tastefully curated this shop, where you will find collectibles worthy of the set of Mad Men.
3901, rue St-Denis, Montréal, QC, H2W 2M4; Tel: 514-282-4141

Liverpool House
The restaurant brings a unique Cape Cod feeling to Montreal's Little Burgundy quarter. The amazing old world wines and fresh oysters are not to be missed. 
2501, rue Notre-Dame Ouest, Montréal, QC, H3J 1N6; Tel: 514-313-6049

The Canadian Centre for Architecture
This museum's incredibly curated exhibitions have featured Mies van der Rohe in America and John Soane.
1920, rue Baile, Montréal, QC, H3H 2S6; Tel: 514-939-7026

C2-MTL (New City Gas)
Revered Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil partnered up with design agency Sid Lee in 2012 to create an annual symposium, Commerce + Creativity. Arianna Huffington, Francis Ford Coppola and Google's Robert Wong spoke at the inaugural session, which was a huge success. We suspect the Spring 2013 edition will be one not to be missed.
172, rue Dalhousie, Montréal, QC, H3C 2L1; Tel 514-879-1166

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