News / Vancouver

Vancouver gallery plans to send artists across Pacific Ocean in cargo ship

Artists are being encouraged to submit a project proposal for Twenty-Three Days At Sea, a residency that sees artists cross the Pacific Ocean via cargo ship.

Vancouver’s Access Gallery has once again put a call for submissions for emerging artists interested in spending 23 days at sea.

The travelling residency, now in its second year, is a partnership between the Chinatown gallery and the Burrard Arts Foundation. Lucky grant recipients cross the Pacific Ocean via cargo ship in what amounts to be just over three weeks. They board in Vancouver and sail all the way to Shanghai, China. The only catch is each artist embarks on the journey solo (besides the crew, of course). Once aboard, they can use the time to either build a new body of work or observe their surroundings for a project afterwards. Whatever is created is then put on display at Access Gallery the following year.

“A conventional residence, which normally offers studio space and an apartment to live in, that’s obviously expensive in Vancouver, so we knew that wasn’t an option for us,” said curator Kimberly Phillips. “I thought, well what could we do that is more innovative, more brave.

“I’m interested in how artists respond to different types of constraints of time and space. It’s a very quiet space on the ship. You’re completely detached from your everyday life. There’s really no Internet access. You can’t surf the web or go on Facebook.” 

Christopher Boyne was one of three artists who made the voyage last year. The Montreal photographer recalls feeling anxious and nervous prior to stepping onto the vessel.

“We went 19 days without seeing land,” he told Metro. “It’s strange. You’re on a ship with a bunch of other people. The ship is so big. Even if there are only 20 people, only half are on call. You really do feel alone.”

But that feeling of isolation didn’t get the best of Boyne. It was liberating, he said.

Having never been to China before, however, resulted in complete culture shock.

“Coming off the ship, where I had just seen the same 20 faces over and over again, everything was calm and quiet. You live a very particular routine; everything is structured around these meal times. It’s almost like being in school, like the bell rings and everybody goes to eat lunch.

“To go from that to just the chaos of this enormous, that was totally bizarre. It took me like two days to even be able to cope and function.”

After returning to Canada and sifting through his photos, Boyne said he realized something. Of the several thousand images, most were of the water, with maybe five of the crew. He also noticed being around people again was an adjustment.

Though Boyne couldn’t divulge too much of his final project, which will be exhibited at Access Gallery between May 27 and June 16, he did say it involves a lot of  woodworking and that it’s very “labour intensive.”

Phillips anticipates a slew of applications in the coming weeks, with nearly 900 submissions received last year and only two to three spots to fill.

Applicants are encouraged to propose projects that relate to sea travel and the global shipping industry.   

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