Burrard Arts Foundation has partnered with Access Gallery in a courageous and innovative new artist residency, Twenty Three Days at Sea. A selected group of talented visual artists will expand and develop their practice aboard cargo ships, as they cross the Pacific Ocean from Vancouver to Shanghai, a passage which takes approximately 23 days. While sailing across the Pacific Ocean, a vast, “empty” space, the artists are asked to question what constitutes creative space in this near bottomless container for the imagination. As we are all aware, Vancouver has an infamously expensive and challenging real estate market, which has had an impact not only on its residents, but on our city’s creative communities as well. It has resulted in a shortage of studio spaces, areas for artists to conduct residencies, and live/work spaces for artists. These challenges led the people at Access to design a more inventive program to accommodate resident artists, and thus the Twenty Three Days at Sea program was conceived.

Today, the vast majority of material objects still move around the world by sea. Yet despite its utter necessity to our lives, the global shipping industry remains highly invisible to most people. Ports have become withdrawn from urban culture, and the sea becomes a forgotten space. Through the artists work in this residency, we aim to render our global shipping system visible again, as well as address the socio-political questions associated with living in a major port city on the edge of the Pacific Rim. This unique set of constraints will be a consideration in the artist’s ideas and work while offering an opportunity to challenge established assumptions.

In the application process, the organizers were Access Gallery was thrilled to receive nearly 900 proposals from around the world. It was clear that this project elicited addressed a powerful dialogue global concern among artists about our contemporary condition. It was then that the decision was made to expand the program from one to four artists each year, resulting in a three year long project and an eventual comprehensive touring exhibition and publication. This year’s selected outstanding emerging artists are Nour Bishouty, Christopher Boyne, Elisa Ferrari, and Amaara Raheem. Currently based in Beirut, Nour’s practice explores ways that narrative can be wound to fabricate connectivity. In Montreal, Christopher uses photography (both moving and still) and sculpture to consider how fleeting experience can be distilled through recall into form, often through the means of the miniature. Elisa’s Vancouver-based practice aims to uncover disparities between historical documentation and experience, working with archival text, images, and videography, installation, performance and sound. Between Melbourne and London, Amaara is an interdependent choreographer, video, and dance artist, whose practice investigates the ethics and aesthetics of mobility, placing language, objects, and movement in parallel, in order to embody flux.

To send these talented artists to Shanghai, we need your help, which is why we have launched a Kickstarter fundraising campaign. As you know, BAF and Access are both registered non-profit charities, which means each and every one of your dollars goes directly to supporting the artists. Any support that you would be willing to give goes to help fund the artists’ cargo ship passage, accommodation in Shanghai, and their air flights home, as well as all the little things like legal fees, travel visas, promotion, and resulting publications.

Please check out our fundraising page, as we are very excited to be participating in this project and have all kinds of neat incentives for your support! Help us send these amazing artists on the journey of a lifetime!

Image by Elisa Ferrari while aboard the Hanjin Ottawa, 2015

Alexandra Best