Douglas Coupland to debut art installation at Vancouver Aquarium tackling issue of marine pollution

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      Canadian artist and writer Douglas Coupland is expected to unveil a new art installation at the Vancouver Aquarium  on May 18 that will draw attention to the mounting issue of marine pollution.

      Titled Vortex, the piece is described as an “imaginative interpretation of the Great Pacific garbage patch”, a swathe of plastic and other floating debris in the Pacific Ocean that, as of March, is estimated to be three times the size of France. The exhibit will also explore Coupland’s relationship with plastic, a material that makes up a large part of the Vancouver-based artist’s past sculptural works.  

      Little information has been revealed about what exactly the installation will encompass, though a video released by the Vancouver Aquarium shows Coupland playing with two giant bobbleheads, a tower of Lego blocks, and knots of yellow cord. Compared to his previous works, “nothing approaches the sinister side of it [plastic] the way this piece does,” he said.

      According to a media release distributed by Ocean Wise, the nonprofit which operates the Vancouver Aquarium, the eccentric artist was inspired to create Vortex after finding a plastic bottle washed up on the shores of Haida Gwaii four years ago. The bottle originated from Tokyo; Coupland knew this because he bought dozens of the same ones for an exhibit during a trip to Japan in 2000.

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

      “We’re honoured and excited to work with Douglas Coupland on Vortex,” added Dr. John Nightingale, Ocean Wise president and CEO. “His art installation will connect more than a million Vancouver Aquarium visitors to the issue in ways that only an artist of his vision and insight can. Seeing the Pacific trash vortex though his creative lens will inspire reflection, contemplation, and—as we hope and anticipate—foster change in human use and disposal of single-use plastic materials.”

      Part of a new initiative from Ocean Wise that tackles the plastic-pollution crisis, Vortex will be displayed at the Vancouver Aquarium for one year. It will be accompanied by interactive elements that detail the ways in which disposable plastics are negatively impacting our environment and waterways—and what we can do to help.

      Follow Lucy Lau on Twitter @lucylau.