twenty-three days at sea / opening reception friday 14 october 7pm

twenty-three days at sea
Nour Bishouty / Christopher Boyne / Elisa Ferrari / Amaara Raheem

Opening Reception
Friday 14 October 2016 7PM
Showroom Gallery at NAC

“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

The Niagara Artists Centre is pleased to present Twenty-Three Days at Sea, Chapter One, curated by Kimberly Phillips, director/curator of Access Gallery in Vancouver, BC, as part of the Concept of Vancouver Conference happening in Downtown St. Catharines 13 and 14 October.

In December 2014, Access Gallery—in partnership with Burrard Arts Foundation—issued a call for submissions for a highly unconventional artist residency, offering selected emergent and experimental artists passage aboard cargo ships sailing from Vancouver to Shanghai. Crossing the Pacific Ocean takes approximately twenty-three days, during which time artists are considered “in residence” aboard the vessel. The response to this call was overwhelming. By deadline Access had received nearly 900 proposals submitted by artists from around the world, as far afield as Sevastopol, Lahore, Sao Paolo, and St. Petersburg.

The idea for this residency project was provoked in part by the fact that Access Gallery is a small, publicly-funded artist-run centre based in a city whose notorious real estate market renders the spatial demands of a traditional residency particularly nearly impossible to realize. Lacking the capacity to host artists on Vancouver’s terra firma for any meaningful length of time,the organization cast its thinking out to sea. But far more importantly, Twenty-Three Days at Sea offered the opportunity to ask an important set of questions relevant to our own socio-political coordinates in a major port city on the Pacific Rim. How can art responsibly bring visibility to the system of sea-borne freight, a system within which we are implicated, but which most of us neither see clearly nor fully understand? How might we interrogate romanticism about the role of the artist as “witness”? What does “risk” mean in artistic practice today?

The exhibition Twenty-Three Days at Sea, Chapter One presents new bodies of work by the residency’s inaugural four artists–Nour Bishouty, Christopher Boyne, Elisa Ferrari, and Amaara Raheem–produced in response to their time spent on the open sea. While diverse in their treatment of both media and subject matter, each of these artists’ practices is marked by a perceptible state of seeking. Their works on exhibition do not directly convey their experiences on the cargo vessels. Rather, through sculpture, sound, video, gathered ephemera, text, and movement, they meditate on the carriage of experience itself, as well as the complexity of translation, the fallibility of recall, and the conditions of complicity.

These new bodies of work, along with published reproductions of their logbooks kept while at sea, will be presented at the Niagara Artists Centre from Friday 14 October – Friday 23 December 2016.

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Born in Jordan and currently based between Toronto and Beirut, Nour Bishouty’s work, which takes shape through installations, images, objects and text, explores ways that narrative can be wound to locate or fabricate connectivity. Recent work has focused on examining the meanings of belonging and affiliation and their peculiar relationship to place. Bishouty holds an MFA from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was a fellow at the 2014/15 Home Workspace Program at Ashkal Alwan.

Christopher Boyne works from impressions, sentiment, and remembered matter, in a practice that is driven by Williams Carlos Williams’ dictum, “no ideas but in things.” He uses photography (both moving and still) and sculpture to consider how fleeting experience can be distilled through recall into form, and understands his work to function like storytelling, stimulating nostalgia, reflection, reminiscence, and regret. Born in Halifax and now based between Halifax and Montreal, Boyne is a graduate of Concordia’s MFA program.

Born in Italy and based in Vancouver, Elisa Ferrari’s practice aims to uncover disparities between historical documentation and experience, and frequently asks how everyday activities become articulated tactics that might enable critiques of institutional power. She works with archival fragments of text, image, and videography to consider the act and implications of retrieval, in projects that manifest through installation, performance, sound, and photography. Ferrari is a graduate of Emily Carr University of Art and Design’s MAA program. Since 2013 she has served as Events and Exhibitions Curator at VIVO Media Arts Centre and as member of the Crista Dahl Media Library and Archive Committee.

Amaara Raheem is a Sri Lankan born dance artist, based between Melbourne, Australia, and London, UK. Placing her own body in fluid states Raheem’s practice investigates the aesthetics and ethics of mobility, by playing with equivalence and rupture. Based in the School of Architecture and Design, RMIT University, Raheem collaborates with designers to make movement as objects. She is interested in creating spaces, from, in, of the body, so that we can question the coherence of systems we create to “know” the world around us and to shift our place, more often than not from the centre of things to the shore-lines, where liquids and solids meet tidal forces, to disturb and devolve the status quo.

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Twenty-Three Days at Sea: A Travelling Artist Residency is produced by Access Gallery in partnership with the Burrard Arts Foundation and the Contemporary Art Gallery. Partial sponsorship of the sea voyages is graciously offered by Reederei NSB, assistance in Asia by China Residencies and Art Contraste, and at the Port of Vancouver by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. Access is grateful for the ongoing support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the British Columbia government through the BC Arts Council and BC Gaming, the City of Vancouver, and our donors, sponsors, members and volunteers.