“The boat is a floating piece of space, a place without a place, that exists by itself, that is closed in on itself and at the same time is given over to the infinity of the sea… (it is a) great instrument of economic development, but has been simultaneously the greatest reserve of the imagination…” – Michel Foucault

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. Access Gallery invited submissions for its new Travelling Artist Residency Program, in partnership with Burrard Arts Foundation and with Contraste agence d’art, and sent the inaugural residents to sea in August 2015.

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.

Eligible Applicants

In keeping with our organizations’ mandates, proposals will be considered from emergent visual artists* working in any and all media, and from those who have entered a new, experimental phase of their practice.

Applicants are 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 histories and culture; 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. 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.

* Visual artists are defined as those who understand their practice to have a visual component, or to be in dialogue with the visual arts. Submissions will be welcomed from artists working in any media including (but not limited to) performance, sound, text, installation, sculpture, 2-D practices, social and research based-practices. Unfortunately we cannot consider applications from those who define themselves strictly as writers, composers, musicians or theatrical practitioners.

Application Process

Applications are now open, deadline February 15 2016.

The response to this call was overwhelming. By deadline we had received over 800 proposals submitted by artists hailing from sites as far afield as Sevastopol, Lahore, Sao Paolo, and St. Petersburg. The calibre and strength of the submissions was striking, their ingenuity breathtaking. It was immediately clear, as we began to review these proposals, that what we had initiated was not simply an artist residency, but a powerful framework through which to address the complexity of our contemporary condition. The cargo ship—sailing across a vast and “empty” space of the sea, nearly always invisible to those on shore and yet inextricably threaded through all our lives—seemed to offer a near bottomless container for the imagination, for narrative and for cultural critique.

The sheer diversity in artists’ proposals, and the breadth of creative queries, concerns and materials that might be brought to this sea voyage, compel us now to expand our initial parameters. We have, therefore, selected four outstanding emergent artists to embark on Twenty-Three Days at Sea in its inaugural year. Diverse in their treatment of both media and subject matter, they are linked by the suppleness and strength of their past work and—of particular importance in this context—by practices defined by a perceptible and sustained state of “seeking.”

Applications consisted of the following:
+ one page cv
+ artist statement (maximum 250 words)
+ a residency proposal (maximum 500 words) accompanied by a maximum of 5 images (if applicable)
+ maximum 10 images of relevant previous work. For sound and film submissions, please include film stills and a submission of up to 5 video files, at 15 minutes max each. Please ensure the film/sound works are sent as an attached file or as a link that won’t expire.
+ please format your proposal into a single pdf (under 20 mb)



Artists must understand that there is no internet on board. Email is reserved only for ship’s business.
Residency artists must produce medical certificates proving good health. There are generally no doctors on board. The vessel has a well-stocked ship’s dispensary and a treatment room. The Captain and officers have the necessary skills to give first aid and are also able to provide further treatment
Since this is a working ship (with no elevators), there are unfortunately no facilities for individuals requiring wheelchairs, walking sticks or crutches, etc.
All meals are taken in the officer’s mess
Residency Artists must in all cases respect and in no way interfere with the ship’s business while aboard the vessel.
Residency Artists are expected to arrive in Vancouver prepared to work independently on his/her work for the duration of the residency in whatever capacity that is possible or to use the voyage to gather research in order to produce the new work independently following the close of the residency.

Sea voyages can be unpredictable and the Artist must prepare for and manage any unexpected obstacles resulting from his/her time at sea (ie. Seasickness). Access Gallery, Burrard Arts Foundation and Contraste agence d’art cannot be held responsible for delays in the production of work due to these obstacles. The Artist assumes responsibility for all costs of the research, production and shipment of any work produced while at sea.

Program Fees

- The Residency will cover the cost of travel aboard the freighter (single cabin and all meals), accommodations for four days in China, and return airfare back to Vancouver.
- Residency artists are expected to fund their own travel to and from Vancouver (the point of departure)
- Residency artists must prove their own purchase of international travel insurance and to secure all necessary travel documents.
- To maximize the artists’ experience upon arrival in Asia, our partner Contraste agence d’art will use its formidable resources in Asia to offer Residency artists an orientation to the art communities of Shanghai upon their arrival.

* Artists are free to travel at their own cost within Asia following disembarkation, provided details are arranged in advance for the purpose of booking return airfare from Shanghai.

Additional Information


Q: As an international artist, am I eligible to apply for the residency?
A:Yes, but as the ship departs from Vancouver, you are responsible for covering the fees required to travel to/from Vancouver. You are also responsible for ensuring all the travel documents are in order.

Q: I am in performing arts/a writer/musician/actor/dancer: am I eligible to apply?
A: Access’ mandate supports visual art practices, therefore the residency is not open to proposals from other disciplines. If the work you are proposing could fall under the umbrella of visual art, we will encourage you to apply.

Q: Can I submit my proposal in a language other than English?
A: Applications will only be considered if submitted in English.

Q: Who is considered an “emergent artist”?
A: Access Gallery’s mandate supports artists who are in the beginning phase of their careers or practice, or those who are entering a new, experimental phase in their practice.

Q: Am I eligible to apply for the residency as a collective/collaborative team?
A: We are definitely open to applications from a collective or collaborative artist teams, but in such cases, we can only provide for the expenses for ONE of the applicants, so the other person(s) must pay for oneself. Approximate freighter fare for each person is about $3,000 CDN (this does not include airfare from Shanghai to Vancouver), plus all artists must fund their own travel to to and from Vancouver, Canada.

Q: Is it a non-stop voyage? Does the ship make other ports of call?
A: The ship’s route is from Vancouver- Pusan- Kwangyang- Ningbo- Shanghai.

Q: Will I be travelling alone? Or with the other residency artist?
A: The two 2015 residents will be sent to Asia on different ships and the exact departure date will be discerned in consultation with successful applicants and according to cabin availability.

Q: What space is available on the ship for artistic production?
A: The only space available to the residents on the vessel is their single cabin – the dimensions of which vary from ship to ship. The residents should not presume to use any further space on the vessel for their practice. Keep in mind too that any large work actually produced on the boat will have to be shipped back to Vancouver at the artists’ expense. We are presuming that most work of this nature will be produced after the voyage itself.

Q: To what extent can I interact with the crew onboard?
A: Passengers are allowed to observe the crew work and have meals in the officer’s mess. Photographs are allowed by arrangement with the Captain. Artists are merely passengers of the ship, and the residency does not have a special relationship to or arrangement with the ship’s crew. Therefore residency artists should not presume to engage the crew working on the ship.

Q: I am a vegetarian/vegan/dairy-free/gluten-free. Will there be alternative meal options available?
A: Unfortunately, the meal plan is set with no alternative options.

Q: What is the name of the ship? What cargo is being transported?
A: We are currently investigating NSB Reiseburo, a German cargo shipping company. As the final booking is not confirmed, information regarding ships/routes may be subject to change as the specific details of the ship will vary depending on the final booking.

Q: When will the ship depart?
A: The exact departure dates for the residency between August and September 2015 have not been finalized. Successful applicants will be in consultation with the gallery to find a shipping time between the projected dates (with 2 months flexibility if necessary) based on both the artists and cabin availability on the ship.

Image credit: Ross Kelly, 12 12 122 12 12 121, 2011. Inkjet print (detail). Courtesy of the Artist.