Douglas Coupland exhibit explores dark side of plastics on B.C. shores

Renowned artist uses plastics found on Haida Gwaii in upcoming display at Vancouver Aquarium

Canadian novelist and designer Douglas Coupland is taking on the plastic pollution crisis in the world’s oceans with a new exhibit coming to B.C.

Using plastic found along the province’s shorelines, Vortex will be on display at the Vancouver Aquarium, near the animals most affected by the pollution: whales, dolphins and seals.

The idea started four years ago during a return visit to Haida Gwaii, when Coupland came across debris that had washed up from the 2011 tsunami in Japan.

While walking along the shores he had been visiting for decades, he found the same plastic bottles he remembered buying in Tokyo 13 years before.

“I began working with plastic thinking it was eternal, shiny and happy,” Coupland said.

“Finding that plastic bottle on the beach was like being on the receiving end of an ancient curse warning me, ‘Be careful what you find seductive. Be careful the things you desire.’ I knew I had to do something to change this. We can turn this around.”

READ MORE: Douglas Coupland sculptures inspired by beachcombing in Haida Gwaii

Vortex includes several components surrounding a large, 50,000-litre water installation with a battered Japanese fishing boat that had been lost during the tsunami and found on Haida Gwaii.

Inside the boat sits a crew of four characters, including artist Andy Warhol and a woman in a life-jacket meant to represent an African migrant fleeing from her home country.

The idea is to represent the “complex global web” of oil, plastics, politics and power and how it’s changed through the decades, Coupland said in a release Tuesday, including “Plastic Girl and Plastic Boy” representing the future.

Inspired by the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup’s annual “dirty dozen” list, based on each year’s cleanup across the country, the exhibit also features a gallery wall show a collection of the most common marine debris found on shorelines.

Coupland said he hopes the piece can foster change and bring understanding to the global scope of plastic pollution in oceans.

“I’m just old enough to remember when people littered. But almost overnight, littering stopped. It’s a hard thing to believe, but it happened because millions of forces around the world coalesced,” Coupland said.

“If I can be part of this process with marine plastics, then great. Environmental art is not what I thought I’d be doing with my life at the age of 56, but I think a lifetime spent beside the Pacific inevitably had to assert its presence from my subconscious out into the conscious world.”

Vortex opens at the Vancouver Aquarium on May 18.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Haida Gwaii seabird conservation highlighted at international congress

Bird Studies Canada’s David Bradley is co-convening a symposium on biosecurity for island species

‘Beauty amongst such tragedy:’ B.C. photographer captures nature’s trifecta

David Luggi’s photo from a beach in Fraser Lake shows Shovel Lake wildfire, Big Dipper and an aurora

Ferry sailing delayed after divers check Northern Adventure

Divers called in to check propeller shaft, sailing to Haida Gwaii now 140 minutes behind

Haida Gwaii fishery staff gear up for marine mammal rescues

Haida fishery guardians and DFO fishery officers better equipped to rescue marine mammals

B.C. woman promoting ‘orange glow’ campaign to support firefighters

A Penticton woman is hoping an orange ribbon campaign will catch on throughout B.C.

Air Canada-led consortium signs deal to buy Aeroplan program

The deal would acquire the Aeroplan loyalty program from Aimia Inc

Microsoft uncovers more Russian attacks ahead of midterms

Evidence found of Russian hacking attempts targeting U.S. political groups

Animal crackers break free from their cages

PETA pressures Mondelez International to show animals roaming in their natural habitats

U.S. man admits slaying wife, blames her for daughters’ deaths

A 33-year-old Denver man is facing three first-degree murder charges

Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha as pilgrims conduct hajj rites

More than 2 million pilgrims carry out the final rites of the hajj in Saudi Arabia

White Spot records B.C. Pirate Pak record day

Popular B.C.-Alberta event raises more than $116,000 to send kids and adults to Zajac Ranch

B.C. team stays alive in Little League World Series after another nail-biter

Surrey-based squad scored a 6-4 win over Mexico reps in Williamsport on Monday

Most Read