Tabitha Denholm Shines a Light on Louisiana’s R&B-Infused Zydeco Trail-Riding Culture
“I loved the idea of going to massive parties on horseback,” says British director Tabitha Denholm of filming the Louisiana trail-riding scene. “Its word-of-mouth element reminded me of the early-90s raves in the UK—it is huge, but it’s outside of the mainstream media. You find out about events from flyers or from your mates.” Filmed in rural areas outside Lafayette over four days that included a raucous Labor Day weekender, Denholm’s short captures the fundamental relationship between horses and zydeco music and Louisiana’s Creole population. While Cajun grew from the white tradition in Southern Louisiana, zydeco evolved as a faster, more rhythm-driven incarnation of Creole or ‘la la’ music as it used to be called. Trail riding combines both riding and dancing elements, as groups of young and old set out through the countryside until they reach a designated party spot. Zydeco has always absorbed other types of music, and the scene has been reinvigorated by the influence of hip-hop and R&B. As loops and breaks have bolstered the traditional accordion and washboard, so a new audience has saddled up to find the party. “In New Orleans they told me, ‘The real action is in the countryside,’” says Denholm. “And it’s true. These dudes are so proud of their horses. They customize them, paint their hooves, plait their hair. They're like mods with their scooters.”
Christian Weber Questions the Body Language of Relationships, While Sheila Heti Ponders Their Very Necessity
A fascination with eastern spirituality led New York-based photographer and director Christian Weber to work on Speak and Spell, a series of photographs that examine human gesture. This spurred a collaboration with art directors Marius Zorrilla and Kiku Aromir and writer Toni Segarra on a new short film, Candor, that analyzes the requirements for a successful relationship. Influenced by the early short films of Peter Greenaway as well as Jørgen Leth’s 1967 classic The Perfect Human, the graphic nature of the black-and-white film here accentuates the dramatic texture of skin. “For me it was trying to walk that fine line between creating animations or illustrations of the work, but actually leaving in human gestures and self-conscious moments,” explains Weber, whose clients include Levi’s, Myspace and Bottega Veneta. “Whether it’s the tapping of the fingers, the way you embrace somebody’s hand or the way you cross your finger over somebody else’s—all of those things mean something. That was part of the underlying tone here: that pure human honesty or candor that exists in our relationships, and how we interact with each other.” But what if you just can’t connect with that special someone? NOWNESS asked Canadian writer Sheila Heti—behind one of New Yorker's 2012 books of the year How Should a Person Be?—to philosophize on the problem of coupling.
Please Don’t Break Up
A few years ago, I got hooked on a blog called Please Don’t Break Up. It showed found photographs of couples, and beneath each photograph was a weird, funny, poetic plea, written by the administrator of the site (and comic), David Dineen-Porter. Below a shot of a happy couple in bathing suits, standing in front of the Grand Canyon, arms around each other, he had written: Please don’t go live in separate apartments. That would be the saddest thing. Beneath a dumplingish old couple in powder-blue formal wear, embracing each other in a 70s living room: If your relationship were an animal, it would be the cute baby version of that animal. Go out on a date, again and again. Please don’t break up, Jeth and Faruk.
I thought about the site daily. Please Don’t Break Up felt like a lost bit of wisdom in our world—so simple. The phrase played itself over and over, like a beautiful song in my head. I was moved by the idea of someone being invested in the fate of another person’s relationship—the relationship of strangers, even. The idea that people should be together simply because they already were together felt hilarious, obvious and profound. I saw it for the first time: Commitment wasn’t merely important to love, it made it love.
Yet when I was with my boyfriend, I longed to be with my friends, and when I was with my friends, I criticized myself for not being a committed sort of animal who could make love last. I felt there was something wrong with me. Please Don’t Break Up seemed to be the missing ingredient in my life—and the lives of my friends who lived as I lived, traveling from one person to the next. Wouldn’t we be more likely to be cosily ensconced in a long-term relationship if we were a little less dispassionate about the lives of our peers—if our breaking up had some resonant effect on our community? How stupid we were to avoid this investment; to refrain from pleading with our friends, "Please don’t break up!” when a break-up seemed nigh.
My desire to break up with my boyfriend irritated me. I wanted to cut out this part of myself. I wanted to secure my resolve by setting my friends upon the scales. Why didn’t they care more? Lacking social censure (and other things, too), we eventually broke up. And I felt like myself again. I realized I was happy. And I was happy that no one had told me not to break up.
All of this was happening around the time of a big natural disaster in the world. I remember reading reports on the internet of people being stuck in airports—they had to remain in Japan, or America, or wherever they were—for weeks. Some could not even cross the city. Many couples who had planned to break up were forced to keep living together—because of the floods, and the strong winds that tore everything down. It was as if Mother Nature herself was pleading, “Please don’t break up!”
A few months later, I read a story about one of these couples, who’d felt their love was through, and wanted to break up, but because of a fallen palm tree blocking their front door, wound up happily married.
Sometimes, it takes a force from the inside to make love last. And sometimes it comes from without—when it is the winds that whisper through the windows who say, “It is not break-up time today.”
The Artist and Photographer On His Lifelong Dedication to the Natural World
Peter Beard has been documenting and interpreting Africa’s epic landscapes and indigenous species for nearly six decades. Here he gives a rare insight into his life and practice in this meditative short from director Derek Peck. Shot at Beard’s home in Montauk, Long Island, we find the artist, author and photographer continuing to develop his complex collage practice that brings together found objects, contact sheets, literary quotes and photographs from Tsavo, Kenya, where he made some of his most memorable and affecting work on elephants in the 60s and 70s. “It does the heart good to see what nature has made available to us,” he says in today’s film. “Nature is the best thing we’ve got.” In his delicate, ornate work, his passion for the natural world is evident, and his commitment to the protection of the environment remains unwavering. “Peter is by turns charming and humorous, dark and brooding, and nostalgic,” Peck says of working with Beard. “Every photo in the collage would trigger a stream of thought about his time in Africa, photography, Montauk, and, especially, his concern for, and anger over, the state of the natural world. This subject more than any other has been at the heart of his work over his lifetime.”