I’ve always been drawn to Douglas Coupland’s writing; he captures our modern (at the time of writing) society from a slightly wary point of view. So the chance to see him in person – discussing his latest book Everywhere is Anywhere is Anything is Everything, the first monograph of his art work – was a brilliant opportunity to hear how his visual art also reflects these themes.
Part of The London Art Book Fair at the Whitechapel Gallery, which had an excellent array of books including artist monographs and special editions, this talk was an insight into the working practices of Coupland and his views on technology, culture and politics.
We heard how growing up in Vancouver and art school in the 80s influenced him and that in his own words, his novels and artwork are like a “time capsule”. But what was really interesting about the conversation between Coupland and Whitechapel Gallery curator Omar Kholeif, was the realisation of how although his commentary on our society appears cynical, he is in fact a fan of technology and can still see the human side of our internet-screen-instant-gratificiation culture. After all, a dozen people lined up in a cafe tapping into a glowing Apple logo still expresses the very human need for being with other humans, albeit in our own insular worlds.
Being taken through his monograph it became clear that his artwork has the same sort of subject matter as his novels, playing on popular culture and referencing everything from Lego to 9/11. A lot of his work, for instance his slogans (above on screen), push the viewer to double take the meaning, Coupland stating how his desired reaction is “Ha ha – Oh.”, a realisation of the double edged sword of today.
I think what Coupland is saying is what a lot of us are currently thinking; we can’t help but get swept up in the latest bit of technology and love how it ‘brings us closer together’, but there is that little bit of nostalgia for the good ol’ days and we know there is no going back.