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 Douglas Coupland

Like most of the people my age -- post Generation X -- I am aware of Douglas Coupland partly because of his first book, Generation X.  As the artist’s bio has it, his interest in Generation X first emerged after he published 1988 magazine article about his generation that was post Boomer and post Yuppie.  Eventually, in 1989 St. Martin’s Press in New York asked him to write a guide to Generation X -- something on the model of the Yuppie Handbook – that made Coupland world-wide known.

But novelist Douglas Coupland’s first love was really art.   Visual art. Sculpture and design and photography.  Douglas Coupland graduated from the Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design in 1984 and had his solo sculpture show three years later. Since then he had many successful shows such as the famous 1999 Spike where a number of enlarged plastic toy soldiers and gigantic plastic bottles and household cleaners were presented in Vancouver’s Monte Clark Gallery.  According to the artist, this work was a reaction to a tragic event from Coupland’s life.  His niece – born in the same year of 1999 – was missing a part of her forearm as well as her left arm due to birth defect. 

Coupland and his family believed that the child’s deformation --  as well as similarly malformed infants, who were born around the same time in the area of North Shore of British Columbia’s Lower Mainland -- has been affected by a toxic agent that caused the rise in limb abnormalities.  The Coupland family along with other families called for an investigation which was cut short due to authorities claim that the rise in abnormalities was accidental enough to exclude a possibility of one single cause.  Douglas Coupland, frustrated and determined to make a statement about his family’s misfortune went back to the art studio and created his startling sculptures. 

Coupland’s art is influenced by artists such as Andy Warhol, Jenny Holzer, Jeffrey Koons and James Rosenquist.  Similarly to these modern artists Coupland makes a connection between the world of humans and the world of technology and the developing world.  He is influenced by mass media, product consumption, the evolution and the poisoning of the natural environment. 

As according to Douglas Coupland himself, after the death of such musical movements such as Punk and New Wave (which the artist sees as reflecting on Western younger society’s attitude) there was a need for something more intuitive and something fast.  Where Punk was dirty and New Wave was over the top with its prissiness, the new era demanded a different reaction.  The different reaction came in synthetic – plastics and photographs, garbage, computer parts, stuffed geese...   The energy of that time and how his work started taking on its shape is best summarized in the artist’s own words: ”The work had to be done. That it all had to be done at Emily Carr up in the painting department seemed quite natural, and it’s only with hindsight we can see just what a rare and exciting explosion it was.”