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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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Martha Wainwright: Proserpina

The Illustrious Singer-Songwriter Debuts a Haunting Cover of Her Mother’s Last Song

Martha Wainwright’s soaring yet delicate harmonies take center stage in her performance of elegy “Proserpina,” written by her late mother, the legendary folk singer Kate McGarrigle, in filmmaker Matthu Placek’s intimate video. Taken from her forthcoming album Come Home to Mama, the track was recorded in Sean Lennon’s New York home studio and continues a lifelong musical dialogue between Wainwright and McGarrigle, who passed away in 2010. “It’s the last song my mother wrote, and of course I also think that she wrote it for me, and for Rufus,” explains Wainwright, referring to her critically acclaimed crooner brother, Rufus Wainwright. “We wrote songs together, ever since we were children. As we sing her songs, I think her voice can be heard in ours, literally through our pipes.”  Placek's single-take film was inspired by the premise of “Proserpina,” which recounts the story of the creation of the seasons by the Roman goddess Ceres, who withholds the world’s bounty for six months every year in protest about her daughter’s abduction by Pluto, lord of the underworld. “It’s all about Martha's performance,” says the director, who has also produced music videos for Trixie Whitley and Hannah Cohen. “Martha’s vocal range is insane, it’s outrageous—I’ve never seen anyone like her.”

Martha Wainwright's fourth album Come Home to Mama is released October 16, "Proserpina" is out on iTunes on Monday, September 3. See a video documenting the making of "Proserpina" on our Facebook page here.

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Maripol: Polaroid Queen

On Set with the Fashion Icon Shooting Document Journal's Issue One

Legendary French photographer, stylist and art director Maripol feeds her Polaroid obsession with an intimate shoot for the inaugural issue of new fashion biannual Document Journal, captured in this behind the scenes video and extracts from her editorial. Given a SX-70 camera in 1977 by her then boyfriend, photographer Edo Bertoglio, as a Christmas present, Maripol immortalized the vibrant downtown art and social scenes of New York in the early 1980s with her instant portraits of friends like Madonna, Debbie Harry and Grace Jones. “People aren't threatened by a Polaroid. For me it became an obsessional object,” she explains. “I used to take photos of everything––a piece of jewelry I made, if I was on holiday, or if I saw a beautiful Manhattan building.” Nick Vogelson, who founded Document Journal with James Valeri, worked with Maripol daily for eight months sorting through her archives to piece together the Maripol: Little Red Riding Hood monograph. “She's a visionary,” says Vogelson, who art directed the book with his Townhouse Creative agency partner Anton Aparin. “One day we'd discover a sketch by Jean-Michel Basquiat or a portrait by Keith Haring, the next day it was an immigration endorsement letter from Andy Warhol.” Launching tonight at the Marc Jacobs bookstore, Bookmarc, as part of Fashion’s Night Out, Document Journal’s debut issue features contributions from New York art-punk aristos Glenn O’Brien, Rene Ricard and Justin Bond, leading photographers like Collier Schorr, David Armstrong and Benjamin Alexander Huseby, and Scissor Sisters frontman Jake Shears. Ahead of tonight’s launch, where she will be taking Polaroids of guests, Maripol muses on celebrity and sexiness.

Were you conscious of the rise of celebrity?
No, I lived the Studio 54 days and could just walk into the Factory. In those days nobody had a PR or an agent to justify the whole principle of celebrity. The most accessible people were those like Jackie Kennedy, who I met, or you would go into a bathroom at a party and Mick Jagger would try to pick you up. There were a lot of great people, but I knew these people at the beginning of their careers and I always remember them as the person that they were then. For me, I don’t see the celebrity thing; people are people.

Who has been your favorite subject to photograph on Polaroid?
I never really took a lot of photographs of the same person, but I would say Madonna.

Is there anyone living or dead that you want to photograph?
As a matter of fact, I want to start shooting artists before they die. We are living in such a youth-oriented society, I am sorry that I didn’t take a portrait of Rauschenberg or artists in their 80s.

Was there a concept behind the Document Journal shoot?
There was no concept behind it, just the pure idea of fashion. I think models respond well to me as a woman. If you think about it, there are still very few female fashion photographers. I think the extension of a camera is a sexual symbol for man. It is a very powerful tool. A lot of male photographers are really drooling over these young girls and I think it must be very difficult for those girls. With me, there was nothing sexual, and what I can get is sexiness without being sexual. There is a difference. It’s because I am a woman and I want to have something feminine and affectionate.

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