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.

Gumhead 01

Gumhead 02

Coupland’s been busy since writing his international best seller Generation XTales 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.

Gumhead 03

“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.

Gumhead 05

Gumhead 06

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.

Gumhead 04

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Gumhead 10

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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?

Gumhead 15 general shot of Coupland's show

Coupland’s work displayed at the Vanocuver Art Gallery

Gumhead 17 Downy, Tide and Pennzoil

Downy, Tide and Pennzoil

Gumhead 18 - 345 Modern House 2014

345 Modern House 2014

Gumnead 16 detail from The Brain

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               

Douglas Coupland

Vancouver Art Gallery


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