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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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Bonneville SpeedWeek

Photographer Simon Davidson Zooms in On the Desert Racing Action Across Utah’s Salt Flats

Simon Davidson’s latest photo series captures high-speed junkies from all over the world descending with their souped-up engines upon a sprawling 5-mile course in Utah’s 36,650 acre dry salt lake for the 64th annual Bonneville SpeedWeek. Over 512 entries combining high-tech engineering and vintage automobiles—including custom belly tankers, hot rods, motorcycles and streamliners—gathered to set land speed records and race at upwards of 400mph upon the uninhabited salt shell. “Over the last hundred years, there have been more land speed records set on Bonneville’s Salt Flats than anywhere else in the world,” says the photographer. “It could almost be said that Bonneville is the home of speed.” This year’s high-octane winner, a Speed Demon D Blown Fuel streamliner, smashed records by reaching 430mph in temperatures nearing 120 Fahrenheit. Utah’s famed speedway track dates back to the 30s when the then Salt Lake City mayor Ab Jenkins took on motoring journalist Sir Malcolm Campbell in the city’s first ever race. A 50s and 60s car aficionado himself, Davidson depicts the fervent mood of the contestants: “Those who keep coming back time and time again call it the 'Salt Fever'.”

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Pow-Wow: Dance-Off

The Vibrant Costumes and Drum-Led Competitions of a Native American Tribal Gathering

Adorned in hawk feather headdresses and colorful ceremonial robes, generations of Siletz Indians unite to observe their tribal traditions at the annual Nesika Illahee Pow-Wow in this series from New York-based photographer Marissa Kaiser. Centered in an open conifer-lined field, the four-day pow wow in Lincoln County, Oregon, next to the Siletz Reservation has evolved into an intertribal festival featuring song, dance and a feast of native foods such as smoked fish, Indian tacos and bannock, a variation on soda bread. “It is beautiful how the tradition is kept alive and passed on from the eldest to the young kids,” notes Kaiser, whose clients include Nike, Adidas and ESPN. Often handed down from generation to generation, dance costumes are embellished with porcupine quills, beads, fur, horns, and bones, with male “fancy” dancers wearing two eye-catching feather bustles tied to their backs and female “jingle dress” dancers with small cone-shaped tin jingles fastened to their outfits. “It might have been a dance competition, but it was also a celebration,” observes Kaiser. “There wasn’t any crazy competitiveness because there was all this love and happiness and dancing.”

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