September 12, 2007

Pandora's Refuge

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Alberto and Gemma and I have been talking (scroll down halfway to their pics) about the possibility of creating a biannual event in Tossa de Mar, a project which essentially is hosting a retreat for artworlders. Our general calendar is to firm up the writing this year (press release type abstracts, full flavor PDF's, and Keynote/powerpoint presentations), next year is to start pursuing funding, and the one after that the inaugural summer.

What follows is a disgorge of a first draft. It's a big mess but I hope that you
see what I see: that the basic idea might have some legs and the way to make it work is a nudge here and there. We have some thoughts about how to select the participants, and the rough outlines are that they must be informed talkers and should come from a wide spectrum of the artworld.

Without further adieu, here is the first publication of "Pandora's Refuge"*:

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Working Title: Pandora's Refuge

Abstract:

For the art world: This is a proposal which seeks to configure a four to six week retreat for art world professionals in the heart of the Spanish and Catalan Costa Brava. This is intended to provide a setting for the exchange of ideas and in depth conversation, as well as a productive space for art making. The extended time frame is intended to provoke and record a deeper conversation about the state of the art world where we have been, where we are and where we are going.

For Tossa de Mar: This is a proposal for the transformation of the tourist industry which forms the economic base of Tossa de Mar. By hosting an annual artists' retreat, encouraging a free exchange of ideas and artworks, by recording these products and publishing them in order to concretize them as historical artifacts, the municipality of Tossa de Mar will be able to inaugurate a legacy of art dialog that will have the potential of garnering a high reputation and cultural achievement. By ratcheting up the reputation of the invitees and quality of hosting each year, Tossa will eventually be able to build not only a reputation but also draw the audience a segment of the culture industry, thus migrating the quality of the tourist visitor from the current mass tourism category to another value, "high" culture category.

***

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(The first draft of the proposal:)

There is a synergy, a "perfect storm" of capacities, circumstances, needs and enthusiasms:

-Tossa has a need for a rejuvenated tourist economy. This is a possibility to grow a seed of arts-based tourism that is ripe with the possibility of lasting historical importance. Mass tourism as an economic strategy has been functional for Tossa, but merely so. In terms of the legacy of pueblo Tossa as a small fishing village by the sea there has been a durable resistance against the conventional metastasising urban development typical to beach cities such as Lloret. In terms of the glamorous historical legacy of Tossa, mass tourism has been an aberration if not a disfigurement. There has been an erosion of the cultural legacy there and the arts ambitions of Tossa need rejuvenation. Historically, high culture came to Tossa de Mar, but luck is something that should not be passively relied upon. If we want to sustain and grow the idea and reality of "Tossa, babel of the arts"(*2), then deliberate cultivation of the full spectrum of the arts at the highest level possible is an indispensable imperative for Tossa's future.

-Catalunya has a need to be recognized by the world at large for its unique historical cultural distinction. Few people outside of the EU know about the world of the Catalans. The potential of establishing a unique and powerful deep-content art activity in Tossa will carve a figure internationally.

-Barcelona, I know has an excellent art scene, but it is small and it is eclipsed by Madrid. Barcelona's art scene is like Dallas' situation (dated material, I hear that there is more than a kernal of young galleries now growing in Dallas): it has a strong top level (museums, foundations, etc.), an almost good enough middle level (galleries that sell high price point, high status art), and no bottom level (creative, hip and art smart knuckleheaded young artists). The ultimate vitality of any art city is measured by this bottom level. If art activity in Tossa is linked to art activity in Barcelona, as in a kind of suburb or adjunct to what is going on there (by sponsorship by Caixa Forum or something like that), then what we do in a small tourist fisherman pueblo can be seen as part of the art fabric that is Barcelona. It would be crazy not to connect the two.

-Spain, indeed has world class art activity, but much can still be achieved by connecting the art world within Spain not only to the art world within the EU, but the art world in New York, London, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Shanghai, Sydney, etc. If we can bring people of a fine reputation into Spain/Barcelona/Tossa, host them for a time frame, cultivate and encourage creative activity, archive and market the products of that activity... then not only will Spanish/Catalan culture be enriched by this contact but the Iberian experience will be seeded in these influential people and seed the world.

-The Art World has a need for a time and space for reflection and vigorous contemplation. The situation of the international art world is as vibrant and robust as it is strange and in our time. It is supercharged with commerce, art fairs is the standard today. Not only are there multiple art fairs every single month globally, but there are upwards of tens of smaller sub art fairs that occur simultaneously at each event. What is missing today is a kind of contemplative congress, a refuge from an overdetermined marketplace, a time and place for a sustained reflection about the where we are culturally at this moment and where we are going as we proceed into the 21st century. In business, we call this a retreat. In academia, this is called a sabbatical. In Tossa, we can call this Pandora.

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(We found an outline for developing projects, we used it to clarify our ideas.)


1) Title - What can we call this enterprise?

(I think we have settled on "Pandora's Retreat", a somewhat predictable nomination from Tossa's POV but I still has enough resonance that it could provoke and vex the project in appropriate ways. (The term "retreat" is troubling with the business overtones, but what else can do?))

*Note to Gemma and Alberto: I substituted "Refuge" for "Retreat", it sounded less corporate. The title is still in flux as you can see and we will certainly talk about it as time goes on.

2) Problem -disintegration of a legacy.

The international legacy of art in Tossa started up with the surrealists Chagall, Masson, Bataille (with Dali in Figueres, Picasso, Miro and Gaudi in Barcelona) then later it was extended and supercharged by Hollywood. Eva Gardner and Frank Sinatra brought glamour and a reputation for class in entertainment, dining and bars. After the 1950's, the arts did continue in Tossa but little occurred at the internationally recognized arena to extend the reputation as the "Babel of the Arts".

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Masson and Bataille in Tossa de Mar April, 1936

Art is a garden, it must be cultivated to bear fruit.

3) Solution - Grow the legacy again.

4) Business Model - Host them and they will come: bring a better class of art (artist) (hubris haunts this construction) and you can bring their audience too.

To explain the strategy as simply as possible:

-invite art world figures (painters, sculptors, multimedia artists, writers/critics/theorists, etc.) to Tossa de Mar for a four to five week sabbatical, all expenses paid (airfare, food, lodging, studio space) in return for reproduction rights to artwork or other cultural artifacts produced during their stay. The idea is to host an inspiring context for reflection and creativity.

-Program events for congress and discussion, and secluded time for creative production. One week for introduction and immersion, three weeks for production (oh what a vexing word!) and a week for presentation and a celebratory party. Interface with the community with a culminating exhibition (that travels to Barcelona?).

-Virtually collect their products: by digital photography, audio recordings of conversations, or digital video.

-Process (graphic design among other ways) and archive the harvest of creative work (transcriptions of conversations, etc.). Create and publish DVD's, CD's, catalogs, books or equivalent products.

-Market these products year to year, gradually increasing the volume, reputation and status of the enterprise.

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5) Underlying Magic - This idea is special because it requires inspiration to succeed.

Art is magical indeed. Art is multidimensional. Art is everywhere. Art is where we want to be.

Tossa has a special creative and glamorous legacy that can be replenished and enhanced with this special retreat.

Cultural diversity and a global dialog is a dream that requires hard work and careful preparation to be realized fruitfully. The prospect of harvesting an unprecedented in-depth conversation centered on aesthetics is in itself magical.

6) Marketing and Sales - Again, the business model: Finding talent with an audience, hosting them for a period of time (promoting dialog), harvesting (and marketing) content, creating historical document (published product), doing it all again every two years.

The product of this activity is what will be the meat of the marketing and the enhanced reputation of Tossa as a true Babel of the arts is what will be sold.

We can and should start small and grow large, scale up. Every year, we use the accomplishments of the previous year to find bigger reputations to come to Tossa. After five or so iterations, we can have a remarkable situation that will put Tossa on the map in the artworld internationally.

This can be repeated for other art forms: music and film.

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7) Competition - generally there are models to research (San Sebastian,
Tarrega, etc...) but specifically, there is no competition.

xxxx

8) Management Team - Gemma Garcia Farreras (daughter of Barcelona, public relations expert, key to regional story and the P.R. needs of Catalunya), Alberto Barcia Fern?ndez (son of Tossa, young artist, key to the inside story and the political arena within Tossa de Mar.), Dennis Hollingsworth (son of Spain+USA, artist/painter, your friendly liason to the international art world).


9) Financial Projections and Key Metrics - 3 to 5 year forecast that
includes metrics

?????first draft alert!!!!!!?????
(We should probably keep the calculations by the vest at the moment, they are super, super primitive. The initial number crunching brought us to overall figures around 200,000 Euros.)

10) Current Status, Timeline, Use of Funds - How will you spend money
in the near future.

Our general calendar is to firm up the writing this year (press release type abstracts, full flavor PDF's, and Keynote/powerpoint presentations), next year is to start pursuing funding, and the one after that the inaugural summer.

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(Link to Pandora in Wikipedia.)

Posted by Dennis at September 12, 2007 12:26 PM

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