Posted on Jan 10, 2015 in Deadhead, Projects, When The Hosts Come Home

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June 14 – September 2, 2014
Hosted by the Vancouver Maritime Museum in Heritage Harbour

September 3 – 18, 2014
False Creek moorage, near George Wainborn Park

September 16, 2014
Grand Tour – Burrard Inlet and Coal Harbour

September 19, 2014 – February 1, 2015
Fraser River, North Delta

Deadhead was a large-scale sculptural installation mounted to a barge and towed by tug to different locations along Vancouver’s waterways. Created by Cedric Bomford in collaboration with his father Jim Bomford (a retired engineer), and brother Nathan Bomford (an artist and builder), the sculpture was constructed primarily from salvaged materials, with some sections wrapped in photographic murals. A curious marine outpost, Deadhead’s enigmatic spaces were designed for public access. This floating artwork began its life on the water with summer moorage in Heritage Harbour at the Vancouver Maritime Museum from June 14 to September 2, 2014. For scheduled public events (see listing below), visitors were ferried from the Museum dock to the barge to board, experience and explore the structure.

Deadhead’s life on the water was the culmination of a number of phases of development that unfolded over a three-year period. The artwork began in 2011 with research trips up the east coast of Vancouver Island, Malcolm Island and Alert Bay. The Bomford team’s sculptural vocabulary was informed by the vernacular and provisional architectural expressions found in the resource camps and the situations of the rural communities they visited. Many of these local cultures evolved around frontier values of individualism and innovation inspiring myths and legends about dreams being realized and selves reinvented. For the Bomfords, there were important links to be made between utopian social experiments and the environmental particularities of the west coast rain forest.

“The coast is infested with the remnants of broken dreams, from abandoned settlements to backyard projects slowly rotting under successive layers of tarps. It is a place of dreams and for dreamers, yet the constant moistness of the climate and attendant rot and decay, bear down on those dreams. The coast lacks the drama of the ‘real’ winters that other parts of Canada get and it doesn’t enjoy the same kind of heat and dryness either. It is rather a constant, mild and incessantly persistent place, one that leans on you, not too hard but enough to let you know you can never let down your guard.” Cedric Bomford

Purposefully choosing the water as a site for occupation, the artists commemorated British Columbia’s waterways as conduits of trade. Moored amongst various kinds of paddle boats, pleasure craft, passenger ferries, cruise ships, freighters, and barges stacked high with global commodities, Deadhead introduced art and culture as valuable cargo within a constantly changing flotilla of economic exchange.

Working from a stockpile of salvaged materials and with an attitude of inventive re-use, the Bomford team employed a “thinking through building” approach, forgoing preliminary plans and digital modeling to move directly into a process of construction and response: sketching through building and erasing through tearing down.

In its final configuration, Deadhead was a bizarre floating ‘compound’ with an uncommon payload. The “B.K.4” WWII barge’s two ‘spuds’ allowed the vessel to moor anywhere the water depth will allow, free of a dock or pylons. A shipping container and old winch shared the deck with an imaginative assemblage of sentry posts, guard houses, lookouts and observation platforms, connected by swooping walls and spiraling stairs and ramps. These sat atop an old LaFarge steel bridge, its function so effectively co-opted it read more like a vessel than a structure engineered to span a void. Odd architectural additions and barnacle-like attachments crept down onto the barge deck, confusing the formal symmetry of the constuction’s foundation.

The title Deadhead suggests multiple meanings: a waterlogged tree partially submerged beneath the water’s surface represents imminent danger, and to ‘deadhead’ a plant entails plucking remnants of past bounty to encourage further blooming. It also refers to the cargo, or lack thereof, on a return trip without paying passengers or freight. The Bomfords’ interpretation of ‘deadhead’ combines the particular conditions of the west coast – its unique climate, histories, and economies – with the artists’ creative process: a hybrid model of function, fantasy, logic and mystery, and the precariousness of the unknown.

Deadhead was curated by Barbara Cole and is the culminating project of When the Hosts Come Home, a 3-part series featuring artist teams that use recycled and repurposed materials to investigate issues of sustainability in relation to Vancouver’s evolving urbanity.

Born in Vancouver and raised on Vancouver Island, Cedric Bomford currently lives and works in Winnipeg, where he is an Assistant Professor in the School of Art at the University of Manitoba. His installation and photographic work has been exhibited in Canada as well as internationally in Germany, Sweden, Australia, the United Kingdom, Iran, and Taiwan. He has also participated in residencies in Europe, Asia, Australia, and North America. Bomford holds an MFA from the Malmö Art Academy (2007) and a BFA from Emily Carr University, Vancouver (2003).

Nathan Bomford is a visual artist mainly working in photography and installation. He was born in Kamloops, B.C. and is currently based in Shawnigan Lake on Vancouver Island. Nathan received an MFA from the University of Victoria in 2006, and a BFA with a major in photography from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 2003. He has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in Germany the United Kingdom and across Canada.

Jim Bomford was born in Duncan B.C. He received his Bachelor of Applied Science (Civil Engineering) from the University of British Columbia in 1971 and practiced as a civil, structural and environmental engineer in British Columbia until his retirement from Professional Engineering in 2010.

Vancouver Maritime Museum, and the Vancouver Chamber Choir. Presentation House Gallery provided valuable support through phases of commissioning and studio production.
With special thanks to Blue Water Systems located in Delta, BC.


All visitors to Deadhead public events received a 25% discount on admission to the Vancouver Maritime Museum.

June 15, Sunday, 2 – 5 pm Opening Reception (on the barge)*
July 5, Saturday, 2 – 5 pm Open House (on the barge)*, Flag-making workshop with Tin Can Studios
(2 – 4 pm at the Vancouver Maritime Museum)
July 19, Saturday, 3:30 + 4:45 pm Vancouver Chamber Choir performs “Narvaez Bay: Tidal Predictions”
a conceptual work by Mark 
Timmings, co-composed with Stephen Morris (on the barge)*
August 7, Thursday, 6 pm Artist Talk with Cedric, Nathan and Jim Bomford (Vancouver Maritime Museum)
August 24, Sunday, 2 – 5pm Open House (on the barge)*
In addition to on-board activities, passersby heard occasional drifting duets at sunset.
*For public events, free ferry service was provided between the Vancouver Maritime Museum dock and Deadhead.

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