He’s a blob on the sidewalk and he wants to be covered in gum. “Gumhead” is the latest creation from author, artist and cultural commentator Douglas Coupland. The seven-foot high self-portrait welcomes visitors to his new show at the Vancouver Art Gallery called everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything.
Coupland’s been busy since writing his international best seller Generation X; Tales for an Accelerated Culture in 1991. Canada’s cultural guru has written 13 more novels and seven non-fiction books in addition to crafting sculpture, furniture and clothing. He’s the man with his finger on the pulse of modern society simultaneously critical yet oddly fascinated with popular culture. “The early 21st century condition,” he calls it.
“I don’t mind having the piss taken out of me; it’s fine,” he says of the huge spittoon which he’s crafted in his own image, inviting passers-by to discard their confections upon his stony face. He reckons that stony face will be completely obscured before too long.
And Vancouverites are glad to oblige. The bust is dotted with gooey dollops and quite a few statements like “The Medium is the Message” fashioned out of the appropriate sugary medium. “Gumhead” is positioned on a downtown thoroughfare next to two food trucks. It gets a lot of traffic.
Inside the gallery, the commentary continues with numerous tableaux comprised of the flotsam and jetsam of modern life including toys, underwear, license plates, household appliances and cans of processed meat. There are towers made out of Lego blocks; there’s even a vision of suburbia composed of identical Lego houses. There are oversized containers and paintings in the style of Mondrian, Lichenstein and Group of Seven stalwart Lawren Harris. Other than a modern variation on Broadway Boogie Woogie, the other Mondrian look-alikes can be read with a Quick Response reader. When scanned with a smartphone they reveal pithy statements about life and death written by the artist. Art meets technology. Or is that technology begets art?
Coupland’s work displayed at the Vanocuver Art Gallery
Downy, Tide and Pennzoil
345 Modern House 2014
Detail of “The Brain”
Photography is encouraged and gallery visitors unwittingly contribute to the event by hovering over the exhibits and clicking away. But that’s okay. It’s all part of Coupland’s desire to engage the public and the dialogue starts right away with that gummy calling card, “Gumhead,” in the heart of Vancouver’s downtown core.
Everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything continues at the Vancouver Art Gallery until September 1st.
Photo Credits: John Thomson