Emergence – Access Gallery - 2016/10/04

Emergence – Access Gallery
Written by Alison Sinkwicz

“Emerging artist” is a term thrown around quite often. Printed in exhibition descriptions, tossed into conversations—or, god forbid, used on Linkedin profiles—the label carries many connotations, but very little weight. Exactly what are these artists “emerging” into?

Access Gallery, which surfaced in 1991, has been asking this type of question of its artists, collaborators, and audiences since the very beginning. “Access was started by a group of recent University of British Columbia grads because they really needed the space—a place to discourse,” says current director and curator Kimberly Phillips, who joined in 2013. “So it was born more out of a particular need for space literal space, but also discourse space. And it’s been a really scrappy institution since then.” Joining other long-standing artist-run-centres in Vancouver, Access fosters the ability for engaging, provoking work to exist and thrive in the city.

For Access, “emerging artist” is definable, but certainly not rigid. “We understand an artist or a practice to be emergent when it can demonstrate a rigour and criticality, but hasn’t had big opportunities yet, or is in need of visibility,” explains Phillips. An artist could be a recent graduate or, perhaps, have made a departure from previous practices. As Phillips puts it: “We always ask the question: does this practice/artist need the platform of Access to generate meaningful, critical conversations around their work?”

Through the decades, the gallery has continued its mandate—a task that is becoming increasingly difficult in the city’s seemingly endless reduction of affordable land. For Phillips, however, the issue of space poses a compelling challenge. “As a curator I’m really interested in working with constraints, and there are a lot of constraints at Access: spatially, fiscally, and otherwise—but those constraints can be really exciting and enabling,” laughs Phillips. In the centre’s 23 Days at Sea residency, Access, in partnership with the Burrard Arts Foundation and the Contemporary Art Gallery, plays with the concept of restraint, and what can be produced within a limited environment. Chosen artists work for 23 days aboard a Reederei NSB container ship that travels from Vancouver to Shanghai. Under these very constricting circumstances, and cut off from the usual lines of communication, the artists produce a series that reflects on their solitary time on the ship. “[The residency] is in part motivated by the inability to do things,” Phillips says. “We can’t afford to host people here, but it allows us to ask questions about: Where is creative space? Where does it get constituted?”

While there are constraints, Access is doing what it can on the home front. By inviting more established thinkers and artists such as Liz Magor and Ian Wallace to converse with exhibiting participants, Phillips has expanded the audience of the centre. “What’s been amazing is these established artists always say that they learn a lot from those conversations,” she says.

Dialogue, after all, is perhaps the most important function of the artist-run-centre. Unlike profit-motivated galleries, this shared-space format both responds and reacts to its environment with more immediacy. “It’s really important to pay attention to the way practices change, and they change constantly,” Phillips says, thinking about the future of such establishments. “So it may be that the nature of how you need or require or articulate space changes, and that could change remarkably over the next 10 years. I think you need to continually ask yourself those questions: Why you do what you do?”

For Access, and more specifically for Phillips, facilitating those types of queries and adaptations is a critical part of her work. Rather than dictating direction, her role requires a lighter touch. “I kind of think often of my work as akin to that of a choreographer,” she muses. “You have an idea of what bodies you want to put in the room, and you kind of choreograph to the best of your ability a series of actions.” She continues: “But then those forces have their own way of interacting, and the forces that are created have reverberations that are out of your control, which is really exciting.” Where we end up may be unknown, but incredible talent will surely emerge.

B33r Community – Zipang Provisions - 2016/09/17

The best things stem from the intersection of two philosophies, the harmony within the dissonance of opposing ideas. It is in this mixing of contrasts that we find true beauty, be it art or food. For the latter, there is Zipang Provisions, a Japanese restaurant that melds East to West, yin to yang. “Our inspiration comes from the Japanese concept of keeping things simple,” says owner Hayato Koshizuka. “We try our best in bringing out the unique qualities of ingredients, so we try to be as simple as possible in terms of our food. We also look to other cultures’ food for inspiration, constantly looking for ways to improve in order to fit the culture we are a part of on Main Street.”

A perfect example? Zipang’s Chicken Karaage Poutine (which, along with Sockeye Salmon Sashimi, Koshizuka suggests pairing with 33 Acres of Life). It harmoniously combines a Canadian staple with a Japanese one, topping golden fries and smooth gravy with crispy deep-fried boneless chicken. Of course, there are more traditional dishes, too, and the sushi certainly does not disappoint. “Our emphasis on incorporating different cuisines really fits with the notion of multiculturalism in Vancouver,” Koshizuka says. “Combining the best of Vancouver with the best of Japan is really important to us. Our interior is our interpretation of Main Street culture, and we emphasized it by using wood for our tables to really create a rustic, homey feel.” And it is very easy to feel at home there, with rich woods and warm tones creating an atmosphere both inviting and modern.

Before opening a brick-and-mortar, Koshizuka operated a booth at the Richmond Night Market from which he sold takoyaki—round, octopus-stuffed pastry—and is known as the first person to bring the dish to Vancouver. Fans of takoyaki can now make a pilgrimage of sorts, to Zipang, where Koshizuka has kept it on the menu. Zipang has been part of Main Street since 2006, moving into its current home between 14th and 15th a couple years ago. It was when Koshizuka was creating the drink list for the new location that he approached us, and a friendship blossomed. Due to our close proximity to Zipang, Tayokaki often stops by the tasting room with his friends for coffee, and we are always so happy to see him.

This year marks a decade since Zipang first joined the Main Street family, and shows hopeful promise of many more to come. The restaurant takes its name from history, referencing the name Marco Polo gave to Japan during his travels. And so, like connecting Japan to Canada, it connects the past to the present, and represents joining of alternative sides. Rather than focusing on the ways we differ, it celebrates the ways we can come together, and presents it perfectly, artfully, on the plate.

33 Acres of Progress - 2016/09/14

Self progression can come from many things. Swollen hands or hurt feet. Getting out of our comfort zone. Its seeing the simple steps we put in daily that grow over time into something we can be proud of. Keep it simple they say.

33 Acres of Progress, a single hop, single malt American Saison inspired by creating something unique with less. Now available in our tasting room only for fills and glasses.