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The objects in this assemblage were accumulated by Coupland over a period of two decades. His collecting scheme was deliberately casual and unintellectualized—for him, these objects represent assertions of his subconscious leaking out over time. His final goal was what you see here, an attempt to make sense of what became, in the end, over 5,000 objects culled from retail stores, eBay, Craigslist, dumpsters, thrift stores, garage sales and back alleys. Out of these objects—which are too vast to index and range from adding machines, toys, tools, curios from hillbilly culture, to German and Japanese paraphernalia—Coupland has created a contemporary cabinet of curiosities, a seemingly encyclopedic catalogue of things elaborately connected with “neural” ties. This installation is simultaneously a densely populated, three-dimensional still life with each object speaking to those strategically placed around it, as well as a type of cultural landscape depicting life as we know it. It also serves as a portrait of Coupland’s subconscious, openly revealing his memories, dreams and desires. Despite the apparent offer of this direct access to Coupland’s brain, we find ourselves looking at and through objects, turned not toward some decisive autobiographical truth, but rather, to a complex, overwhelming, unruly and wondrous world.

The Brain is divided into right and left cerebral hemispheres, playing on the idea of lateralization of brain function. Mimicking the brain’s bilateral symmetry, Coupland has further divided each hemisphere into three sections. These six sections are bound together, symbolizing the neurotransmitters and synapses that convey information as well as the interconnectedness of the whole. A centrally located globe dripping white paint represents the corpus callosum, a bundle of neural fibres that connects the left and right cerebral hemispheres and facilitates the transfer of information between them. A black chair suspended from the ceiling that hovers over this area is Coupland’s metaphoric evocation of the “seat of consciousness,” the elusive site of self-reflexive awareness that neuroscientists have yet to pinpoint.

Details

  • Title: The Brain
  • Creator: Douglas Coupland
  • Date: 2014
  • Physical Dimensions: w364.5 x h284.5 x d731.5 cm
  • Exhibition section: The Brain
  • Credit line: Courtesy of the Artist and Daniel Faria Gallery
  • Type: installation
  • Medium: mixed media installation with readymade objects

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