Douglas Coupland shows impact of marine-pollution crisis in new art installation


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Douglas Coupland once had a love affair with plastics, but that relationship has, in his own words, “turned upside down.” 

The award-winning Canadian author behind books like Generation X and Microserfs has enjoyed a decades-long career in visual art, with plastic at the heart of his creative process. He mostly creates sculptures using items like Lego, cheap souvenirs, and laundry detergent bottles, but a few years ago something happened that changed his perspective. 

When discarded plastic products started washing up on the shore in B.C., where Coupland lives, the experience rattled him to the core. He began studying the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — a massive, Texas-sized glut of trash in the middle of the Pacific Ocean — but he couldn’t find many photos of the devastation. He decided to create his own image that could help others visualize the scale of this ocean pollution and its horrific impact on marine life. 

The result was Coupland’s new plastic-packed art installation, Vortex​, which is currently on display at the Vancouver Aquarium.​ According to a release, the piece aims to “immerse Aquarium visitors in a contemplative, emotive, and transformative experience at the nexus between art and environment.” 

Coupland joined Tom Power from a studio in Vancouver to talk about the origin and meaning of his exhibit, and what he hopes viewers will take away from it. 

Douglas Coupland’s Vortex. (Ocean Wise / CBC)

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