Internationally-renowned author, artist, and designer Douglas Coupland is collaborating with Ocean Wise to highlight ocean plastic pollution in a new major sculpture exhibition that will be unveiled at Vancouver Aquarium on May 18, 2018. Plastic has been apart of Coupland’s creative process for decades. The year-long installation, Vortex, will immerse Aquarium visitors in a contemplative, emotive, and transformative experience at the nexus between art and environment.
“Plastic is at once beautiful yet ugly; seductive yet toxic,” Coupland says. “I’ve been visiting Haida Gwaii annually, beachcombing and hiking. In the years following the 2013 Japanese earthquake and its ensuing tsunami, the plastics I once bought in Tokyo began washing up on my home shores. It changed me on a deep level. It chilled me. I knew I had to explore the strange new relationship humans have established with the planet.
I also realized I had to do this in one of the best aquariums in the world, not at a traditional art museum. Working with the team at Vancouver Aquarium, our discussion quickly evolved into an installation focused on highlighting the human fascination with plastic and the challenges it’s posing to the oceans.”
The exhibit brings together Coupland’s west coast upbringing, his well-known fascination with both mass culture and crowdsourced materials, and his ever-evolving relationship with plastics and human-made materials. A large part of his exhibit is a creative reimagining of what is commonly called “the Pacific Trash Vortex” – also referred to as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – and will feature a colourful array of ocean plastics collected along the British Columbia coastline by Coupland, the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, and other collaborating cleanup organizations. The work will be thoughtfully curated and modified by the artist.
“We are honoured to be partnering with Douglas Coupland and excited to work with him at a time when ocean pollution awareness has never been more imperative. Plastics are entering our oceans at an alarming rate — one dump truck full per minute — posing a grave threat to marine ecosystems and aquatic life. The only way to tackle this overwhelming problem and restore the health of our oceans is through increased understanding,” says John Nightingale, Ocean Wise President and CEO. “Coupland is a cultural clairvoyant. This project will provide Vancouver Aquarium visitors the opportunity to engage with the impact humans have on our oceans.”
Coupland’s literary and visual art have earned him recognition the world over. Coupland is an Officer of the Order of Canada and a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. Coupland’s first novel and international bestseller, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, was the precursor to an extraordinary library of published prose in many languages. During the past three years, Coupland has had solo museum shows in Vancouver, Toronto, Rotterdam and Munich, participated in many group shows, and was Google’s 2015 Artist in Residence at their Paris Google Cultural Centre.
Ocean Wise would like to extend special gratitude to Haida Nation, Parks Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Pacific Science Enterprise Centre, Highlander Marine Services, and Ocean Legacy for on-the-ground project support as well as The Lagniappe Foundation, Eric Savics and Kim Spencer-Nairn, and Charles and Dale Young for their financial support of this exhibit.