23 Days at Sea: Interview with Kimberly Phillips

by Jae in Jung

chile 1

Ross Kelly, 12 12 122 12 12 121, 2011. Inkjet print (detail).

Access Gallery held its Annual Auction fundraiser on Saturday, November 15, 2014. With artworks generously donated by more than 60 local and international artists, some of the proceeds of this fundraiser will go towards the development of Access’ new Traveling Artist Residency, Twenty-three Days at Sea. The residency will enable selected artists to book passage aboard a cargo ship and sail across the Pacific Ocean from Vancouver to Shanghai, China. These artists will be considered“in residence”for the 23 days aboard the vessel. The following interview is with Access Gallery‘s Director/Curator, Kimberly Phillips. Twenty-three Days at Sea will be officially announced through a press release and Call for Submissions in early December, 2014.


The crowd at the Access Gallery Auction, which raised fund for the new residency

You are raising money to support an artist residency on a cargo ship, which will take the artists from Vancouver to port cities of Asia. How did you come up with this idea? Why did you choose these particular locations?

The idea was developed through discussions about what an artistic residency means; precisely what kind of space for reflection and production it offers. The idea of “going away” in order to become inspired is not new, and has been a concern or desire for many artists since the beginning of the twentieth century at least. We at Access wanted to create a new initiative that would support emergent and experimental artists (as per our organization’s mandate) with a profoundly unique and exceptional opportunity to create new work. A supported residency can offer such an opportunity. However, unlike most residencies, which offer space in a static site for a particular amount of time, our idea was to create a traveling residency that would encourage artists to reflect upon and build their practice within a very specific set of spatial and temporal constraints: those offered on a freighter as it crossed the Pacific. There are several traveling residencies in existence in the visual arts and beyond (AmTrak quite recently and famously created one for writers) and a couple isolated examples of artists boarding cargo ships from the 1970s onwards. Our traveling residency takes advantage of Vancouver’s position as a port city and our historic linkages to Asia (we think also of the fact that Access Gallery is situated in Chinatown). Artists selected to participate in “Twenty-Three Days at Sea” will be “in residence” on the vessel for the 23 days it takes to cross the ocean, from Vancouver to Shanghai.

Our current exhibition at Satellite Gallery is presenting the idea of port city through objects and archival materials related to Vancouver’s own history as a port. How will this residency reflect on Vancouver’s role as a port?

Yours is a great exhibition! More detailed information will be available when we release the Residency Call for Submissions, but essentially the Call will encourage proposals from artists that consider any number of compelling issues focused around Vancouver’s history and current practices as a port city: notions of connectivity to Asia, the global market, currency and capital; the economics and politics of the traffic in goods and ideas (and people), the history of Asia-Pacific relations, and, not insignificantly, expanded notions of time and space. This method of crossing the ocean—on a cargo ship—is not something many people will ever experience, though in a globalized market it is a mode of travel to which most of us are inevitably intertwined. Indeed the entire experience of sea travel is one which is now rather unconventional (luxuriated or romanticized) given that most of us cross the ocean by airplane. I believe there is such a potential spread of responses to this kind of experience, from the bitingly political to the poetic. We look forward to a diversity of responses from our submitters.

How will you choose the artists that will be taking part in this residency at sea?

The Residency will be announced in early December, 2014, through an internationally promoted Call for Submissions, and we hope that the first resident will be sent to sea in August 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 comprised of Access’ Director/Curator and board members as well as two established, external members of Vancouver’s visual art community.

What are you hoping they will gain from this journey?

The objective of this program is to encourage the production of new artwork (which, depending upon the resident artists’ practices, may take place aboard the vessel or in the months following) and to facilitate Residency artists’ engagement with new networks in Asia, in particular considering linkages between places on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean (Access is partnering with another Canadian non-profit organization with formidable resources in Beijing and Shanghai). Another possible conclusion of the Residency is to introduce this new body of work in Vancouver through a subsequent exhibition at Access Gallery, thereby fostering dialogue and connectivity within our own community about the unique responses to twenty-three days at sea.

Our long-term aim, following the first successful years of the Program, is to partner with like-mandated artist-run 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.

How does this residency connect to other programming at Access?

Access is committed to supporting the work of emergent artists and those entering a new, experimental phase in their practice. So this new program supports our mandate in a very direct and generative way. As mentioned above, one of the aims of the residency is to exhibit the new work at Access Gallery and open it for public discussion through events or other outreach. Utterly unique amongst residencies worldwide, and offering artists a profoundly generative space for the creation of new ideas and work, our feedback from the community has thus far been overwhelmingly positive and already, in advance of its official announcement, excitement for Twenty-Three Days at Sea is building palpably. We anticipate a great amount of exposure and critical response to this initiative.

Please stay tuned to Access Gallery’s website and facebook page for the official announcement of the Residency and its Call for Submissions.


Vanessa Kwan auctioning off works at the Access Gallery auction




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