Douglas Coupland inhabits a unique psychic landscape. It is a place where he documents pop culture ~ and yet, at the same time he is pop culture. He is transparently fluid in most forms of contemporary communication from print to broadcasting, film, TV, and electronic publishing. In 1999, he resumed a visual arts practice that had lain dormant for over a decade.
Coupland is clearly influenced and motivated by the specific time and the particular place of his youth. His upbringing on North America 's West coast in the latter half of the 20th century is the source of his inspiration. While he was growing up ~ and seemingly already a step ahead of the culture ~ he became fascinated with Japan; alert to the rise of television, film and all things high-tech; touched by the rise of counterculture tribes; and attuned to the lure of the future.
While rooted in his own present and not the future, Coupland is, nonetheless, interested in futurology, which he explains as “not about guessing,” but “a means of looking at right now and figuring out the logical consequences of what we're doing at the moment.” He is concerned with the nuts and bolts of change. What things will change radically? And perhaps, even more importantly, what things ~ from cereal packages to bicycles to pharmaceuticals ~ will stay the same in terms of form and function?
In his 1996 novel, Girlfriend in a Coma , Coupland articulated “a then nascent and unavoidable schism in modern life that now seems clear: the notion that the future and eternity are two different things.” He says, “I'm curious. I want to know what 2088 looks like – or 2000088, for that matter. And what will eventually happen to a pair of Nordica ski boots I threw out in 1982. Will they fossilize? Will they become petrified? Will they remain mummified in a landfill until the sun goes supernova?” These are the kind of interests he explores in his film work (Minority Report and A.I.) with Steven Spielberg.
In Coupland's new body of work, I Like the Future and the Future Likes Me , the year 3005, being his “favourite event horizon is 1000 years” is presented. Here, the paradoxical realities of Coupland's own brand of futurology, are made manifest in bell jars housing meteorites and cast bronze Ramen noodles. He invites us to muse on the stark contrast between the eternal and the ephemeral. “Collectively I want these works here to generate an emotion or set of thoughts that hack into our everyday timethinking. Stars Wars imagery is presented as a corrupted form of architectural space and as a fossil of a future that never existed to begin with. NASA gear is haute couture for the Chinese who, if they play their cards right, could quite reasonably invade and conquer North America in a hundred years, beach-heading from Haida Gwaii to Tijuana . Within a series of closed bell jars the eternal and the ultra-short-term collide and sit locked in a pas de deux in the form of meteorites and ramen noodles.” As writer Monika Burman aptly remarks: “ Our fantasies about the future, about time and space, the universe, the epic grandeur of a “Star Wars” era are put on display for our descendents. It's unknown whether our notions will be admired or laughed at, but the universality of this image in our culture is undeniable.”
In Lost and Gained in Translation , Coupland questions the new meaning of translation in a today's world. We live in a world of automatized translations (e.g. Google, Yahoo, Sherlock) and practically free and instantaneous systems for crisscrossing languages. It is as easy to change a language as it is to change a font in a Word program. As Coupland says, “Any paragraph pumped through massive translation ends up with a huge amount of chaff (strands of numbers, etc.). However, once removed, the remains are often a chilling reductive haiku of the initial text”. Based on his work in the Do It book project with Hans Obrist, Coupland presents us with massive translation pieces. As Burman notes, “These pieces come across as intelligible word puzzles, a somewhat recognizable forms of the original, but different in an essentially mysterious way through the process of translation and re-translation.”
In six vitrines Coupland presents Hornet's Nests comprised of ‘hand chewed' books and various branches. Through them, he makes possible “a primary way of relating to books that takes them outside of historical and cultural time, redirecting them to a humanless world”. The nests initiate, as Burman explains, “ an ongoing dialogue on whether they are still the books, or whether they are now entirely a nest, or whether they are something in-between; perhaps just an idea that lives in the ether.”
Coupland's capacity to first select and then to re-present the fruit of the here and now are what will assure him his place in the future.
Douglas Coupland graduated from the Emily Carr College of Art and Design in 1984. In 1987, the Vancouver Art Gallery held a solo exhibition of his sculpture, called ‘The Floating World'. His first novel, ‘Generation X', was published in 1991. He has since written fourteen other books of both fiction and non-fiction, that have been translated into 33 languages. In recent years, Coupland has participated in New York 's elaborate ‘Terminal 5' installation project along with Jenny Holzer, Dan Graham, Vanessa Beecroft and others. In Europe , he has collaborated with Pierre Huyghe, Martin Boyce and Rita McBride and has participated in Hans Ulrich Obrist's Do-It project. In 2004, The Canada Pictures , a series of classically-inspired still life photographs composed of all things Canadian, were featured as part of Canada House , an international traveling exhibition. A new Coupland installation entitled Super City is currently on exhibition at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal, Canada.
-- Monika Burman, MAG - Mass Art Guide, August 2005
Two things have been pervasive in Monika Burman's life - writing and art. In her early years she could be found painting with her artist grandfather, designing ads with her Art Director father, and writing poems for her English teacher mother. She graduated from the University of Waterloo in 2001, with a degree in Professional Writing and Fine Arts, and has recently begun freelance writing, with pieces published in national and local publications, providing a fresh perspective on arts and culture.