An extraordinary journey in a renewed past
HERITAGE / ART / TOURISM
Imaginary Tourism is a structure based in Mazamet (Tarn department South of France), whose objective is to put in place a core that mixes heritage, art and tourism, in order to revitalise its territories placing an unexpected value on existing sites, artistic creation as well as developing local tourism. As a public display case Imaginary Tourism, the circuits that are proposed have become a local leading event. Via its guided visits to its sites in a bus, the proposal leads to a different interpretation of a declining and abandoned heritage seen through the prism of contemporary art and street theatre. For the past three years,
the success has been such that the bookings have all been filled up.
The success of these events come from its daring and inovating formula, gathering every different generation and all kinds of social classes. The association is active year round, collaborating with businesses, des collectivités territoriales, educational medical institutions, local media and institutions without forgetting regional and national structures. With solid local roots, Imaginary Tourism shines well over the borders of the Tarn.
Its members work year round in order to develop the different fields of investigation of the association such as : heritage action, artistic creation, cultural and educational action, the development of tourism and the creation of new partnerships.
HERITAGE ACTION :
In the origins of the Imaginary Tourism, there is a definite interest for forgotten local heritage, be it linked in buildings,traditions or the spoken word. Therefore, every year new sites are required to explore and then transform them into various stations to be visited during the summer circuit. Active research is done with the land registry and with various proprietors in order to obtain the necessary permits in order to ensure securing the sites to be visited. Over three years, sites that have been used include : an disused bus station, a cave, a fellmongering factory, an old pharmacy, two separate industrial wastelands, a wool store, an empty high rise council building, a furniture manufacturer, two castles, and an obsolete show hall. Work gathering information as well as research is done equally with people, resources, documentation and anecdotes, songs or historical data for this living archaeology of the territory.
THE ARTISTIC CREATION:
The idea of Imaginary Tourism is to match each site with works of art that are created in situ, in fact conceived by the artists specifically for the places that are chosen. The invited artists have a residency in the Centre for Contemporary Ephemeral Art in Aussillon (France) so that they can fully immerse themselves in their creation and in the territory. In 2014, three artists were in residence : Sébastien Perroud, Eva Kabadayan and Naomi Burlet (production Tarn Association of Contemporary Art) and in 2015, the photographer Gaël Bonnefon (production the Abattoirs / Regional Funding of Contemporary Art in the Midi-Pyrénées region). Soundscapes created by Mathieu Werchowski (as a result of several workshops and transcribing local memory) are played during the summer circuit (both in the bus and on the sites) as well as on the airwaves of Radio+FM and Radio100%, both local stations.
CULTURAL AND EDUCATIONAL ACTION :
One of the aims of Imaginary Tourism is to make the artistic experience accessible to everybody and to break down the barriers between genres and audiences. Several artist residencies and workshops have therefore been set-up within educational and medical structures : in the secondary schools of Jean Louis Etienne and Marcel Pagnol in Mazamet (France) ; in the day hospital of Mazamet (Culture / Health program funded by the Direction Régionale des Affaires Culturelles et l'Agence Régionale de la Santé / Regional agency for Cultural affairs and the Regional Agency for Healthcare) and in the handicapped adult day centre in Le Hameau du Lac at Cagnac les Mines (France). Several students and schoolchildren have done work experience within Imaginary Tourism : high school students of from Jeanne d'Arc in Mazamet and a student in third year Agent de Développement Culturel en Milieu Rural / Cultural Development Agent in Rural Environments from Champollion university in Albi (France). Soon a School for Temporary Art will be created in Aussillon during 2016, led by postgraduates from the Superior Art School of Dunkerque/Tourcoing. The work that will be realised during interventions with secondary schools, primary schools and extra-curricular activities will be displayed on one of the stations on the circuit of Imaginary Tourism 4.
DEVELOPMENT OF TOURISM :
As indicated by its name, Imaginary Tourism tends towards the development and expansion of territorial tourism where it takes place. Throughout a constant communication with the written media and radio (100% radio, le Journal d'ici, la Depêche, la Montagne Noire, Parcours des Arts), it focusses attention on its activities as well as its zone of action. A strong link has been created with the Mazamet Tourist Office, which insures box office and ticketing as well as bookings, and help to promote it as an essential event at the start of the summer season in the Mazamet area. For the past two years, the relationship with the Comité Départemental du Tourisme du Tarn / Departmental Committee for Tourism in the Tarn Department has allowed the territoriality of actions thanks to the participation of numerous contributors : communication via meetings and website, organised package of a visit in Mazamet (historical visit in the morning, lunch at a local restaurant, followed by a circuit of Imaginary Tourism in the afternoon), supply of a bus for travel agency staff as well as bus drivers from the department.
In order to exist and to become durable, Imaginary Tourism multiplies collaborations with local associates, but also on a regional and national level . With the Abattoirs / Regional Funding of Contemporary Art in the Midi-Pyrenees region: loan of works and production of new works. With the AFIAC : production of a site/station and co-commission. With the University Champollion of Albi : welcoming of students in work experience as well as intervention within their course. With the Ecole Supérieure d'Art de Tourcoing : implementation of a School for Temporary Art in Aussillon and production of a site/station. With the Departmental Committee for Tourism in the Tarn Department and Mazamet Tourist Office : promotion of Imaginary Tourism and development of tourism.
THE TOURISTIC CIRCUIT :
Public showcase of Imaginary Tourism it is a leading event. It breathes new life in heritage sites that have been forgotten in several communes in the Mazamet area and proposes an innovating reinterpretation. Using its formula that is both touristic and playful, it brings visitors to see with a different eye on what surrounds them, discover its past and history as well as poetically understand the present. Led by a solid bunch of guides, the tourists share an out of time experience, an afternoon of discovery of local heritage seen through the eyes of contemporary artists. Their somewhat surprising works deliver a heightened perception of these sites that are steeped in history.
The guides/actors accompany the audience to access these works by their off the wall and humoristic proposals thus becoming cultural interpreters of a new gendre.
THE RETROSPECTIVE EXHIBITION :
This is an exhibition that retraces the experience of each circuit of Imaginary Tourism. It documents each edition with images, graphic elements, artworks and soundscapes. Each time, the guides/actors welcome the audience to bring them into another dimension : one of humour and the bizarre so as the viewings become real events. Every year, the association Le Pressoir directed by Delphine Bernard ensures the viewing of the photographic timeline and David Rousseau from Cinéa presents a video. The three Retrospective exhibitions took place at the château de la Falgalarié in Aussillon in 2013, in the Espace Apollo of Mazamet in 2014 and in the Arthur Battut photographic centre at the Rond Point in Labruguière (France) in 2015.
Each of these viewings have gathered between 150 and 200 people, proving that the audience made their presence felt and were eager for further regular events from Imaginary Tourism.