Burrard Arts Foundation is excited to introduce a new Travelling Artist Residency Program, in partnership with Access Gallery and with Contraste Art Agency, titled Twenty-Three Days at Sea. Unlike traditional residencies, which offer artists accommodation at a stationary site for a designated period with the aim of producing a new body of work, Twenty-Three Days at Sea is utterly unique: it will offer selected artists passage aboard a cargo ship sailing from Vancouver, Canada to Shanghai, China. Crossing the Pacific Ocean takes approximately twenty-three days, during which time the artist will be considered “in residence” aboard the vessel. 

An internationally circulated Call for Submissions will be announced on December 8, 2014, and the inaugural two residents will be sent to sea in August and September 2015. In keeping with Access Gallery’s mandate, proposals will be considered from emergent artists working in any and all media, and from those who have entered a new, experimental phase of their practice. Submissions will be adjudicated by a committee comprising Access’ Director/Curator and members of the organization’s board of directors, a representative from Burrard Arts Foundation as well as an external esteemed member of Vancouver’s visual art community. 

Applicants will be encouraged to propose projects that consider issues resonant with sea travel and with the ubiquitous but, for most of us, largely invisible world of the global shipping industry. These may include, but are by no means limited to, matters of trans-Pacific connectivity, traffic and trade; maritime and port legalities, histories, labour and cultural practices; and, significantly, notions of time and space, since crossing a great expanse of water is experienced far differently on an ocean vessel than by more conventional air travel. Possible responses to this unique time at sea may stretch from the bitingly political to the lyrically poetic; the voyage may challenge and uproot artists’ ideas of their own practice, its comforts and its parameters, and will offer an invaluable space of quiet for focused research, imagination and creation in the unconventional studio space of the cargo ship cabin. The objective of this Residency Program is to encourage the production of new artwork (which, depending upon the artists’ practices, may take place aboard the vessel or in the months following); to facilitate Residency artists’ engagement with new networks in Asia, considering linkages between places on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean; and to introduce this new body of work to audiences in Vancouver through a subsequent exhibition at Access Gallery. For the extent of the residency voyage, artists will also be requested to keep a daily “log.” Subsequently published by Access, these log books, which may or may not comprise the new work produced, will accumulate as an ongoing collection of book works, chronicling diverse responses to a shared experience of being at sea.  The Residency will cover the cost of travel aboard the freighter, accommodations for four days in China, and return airfare back to Vancouver. Residency artists will be expected to fund their own travel to and from Vancouver (the point of departure), to prove purchase of international travel insurance and to secure all necessary travel documents. To maximize the artists’ experience upon arrival in Asia, our partner Contraste Art Agency will use its formidable resources in Asia to offer Residency artists an orientation to the art communities of Shanghai upon their arrival. Reflecting all three partners’ mandates, our ultimate aim, following the first successful year of the Program, is to partner with like-mandated organizations in China and other port cities world-wide who will reciprocate by sending artists aboard cargo ships destined for Vancouver, thereby developing the Residency into an international artist exchange. The world’s first purpose-built container ship departed from North Vancouver in 1955; since this date, small handfuls of visual artists and writers across the globe are known to have boarded freighters to escape the banal, to generate ideas, and to consider the many implications of this mode of travel. Distinct from the myriad of residency opportunities now available to artists worldwide, Twenty-three Days at Sea is the first known program developed by an artist-run centre to support emergent and experimental artists in particular, offering them a profoundly generative time and space for the creation of provocative new ideas and work and, with the aim of critical dialogue and reflection, to present that work before audiences in our own port city.  

To access the Call for Submissions, please visit www.accessgallery.ca/submissions.