Artist Stranded at Sea During Container Ship Residency

"I am still making work," says the artist.

Rebecca Moss on the Hanjin container ship. Courtesy of Rebecca Moss, via Facebook.
Rebecca Moss on the Hanjin container ship. Courtesy of Rebecca Moss, via Facebook.

When British artist Rebecca Moss boarded the Hanjin Geneva, bound from Vancouver for Shanghai, on August 24, she had no way of knowing what would happen next.

The Hanjin Shipping Company, the Seoul-based company operating the ship (which has actually been rented from an American company, the Conti Group, and flies under a German flag), filed for bankruptcy on August 31. Suddenly, the Geneva, and everyone aboard, found itself barred from entry from ports around the world, due to concerns that the company would not be able to pay port and service fees.

Over a week later, the Hanjin Geneva container ship is currently anchored about 13 miles off the coast of Japan, and is hoping to eventually make port in Tokyo. This strange turn of events has left the crew, and with them, Moss, in limbo.

This picture taken on September 3, 2016 shows a general view of the Hanjin Incheon Container Terminal in Seoul. Courtesy of AFP/Ed Jones/Getty Images.

This picture taken on September 3, 2016 shows a general view of the Hanjin Incheon Container Terminal in Seoul. Courtesy of AFP/Ed Jones/Getty Images.

Moss is the fifth resident in the Twenty-Three Days at Sea Travelling Artist Residency program run by Vancouver’s Access Gallery. The residency encourages artists to propose work that engages with the “ubiquitous but… largely invisible world of the global shipping industry,” according to the program description.

In that, Moss’s residency has been an unqualified success, as her unlikely place aboard the Geneva, and the larger story of Hanjin’s bankruptcy, has been the subject of widespread media attention.

“My work has been dramatically and interestingly framed by these circumstances,” Moss told artnet News via Facebook. “I am still making work—I have a performative video based practice that is oddly suited to this.”

403123 07: Thousands of truck-sized 30-ton shipping containers are stacked aboard the Hanjin Oslo freighter in the Port of Los Angeles March 29, 2002. Courtesy of David McNew/Getty Images.

403123 07: Thousands of truck-sized 30-ton shipping containers are stacked aboard the Hanjin Oslo freighter in the Port of Los Angeles March 29, 2002. Courtesy of David McNew/Getty Images.

Moss’s ship is, of course, far from the only vessel affected by the bankruptcy. According to Bloomberg, the company says that there are 85 ships waiting for permission to land in 26 countries.

Asked how she is feeling, Moss told us that she is “incredulous that such a dumb situation could be able to occur and that the captain and crew seem to be disregarded in all media surrounding the Hanjin bankruptcy.”

As unusual as the Twenty-Three Days program sounds, this isn’t the only container ship residency out there, with New York artist and curator Maayan Strauss introducing the Container Artist Residency program last September. Thankfully, the seven selected participants were slated to set sail with a different shipping line.


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