Tokyo Harbour

Douglas Coupland2000

Vancouver Art Gallery

Vancouver Art Gallery

"In 2000 I visited various Tokyo department stores to collect a wide array of home cleaning products—I liked their colourful forms and bold graphic treatments. I took these to my hotel and emptied them down the toilet, where they ultimately entered Tokyo Harbour, giving this work its title. Thirteen years later when I went to Haida Gwaii, British Columbia to clean up debris from Japan's carastrophic 2012 tsunami, I was surprised to find Japanese cleaning product bottles arriving, unbidden, from Japan. This discovery brought up a complex array of emotions that began with a small but significant oil spill in Vancouver's English Bay that washed up on Ambleside Beach in 1973 and that I was involved in cleaning up—including the removal of dead oil-smothered cormorants—and this created a sense of closure." —Douglas Coupland.

Struck by the seductive packaging of Japanese cleaning products, Coupland has fashioned these everyday obects into artworks by highlighting their display. The text is appreciated for its form and design rather than just its content and is a simple but poignant example of the way the artist uses words in his artworks for both their aesthetic shape and meaning.

As a writer and visual artist, Coupland has often disregarded the traditional divide between these disciplines. Using letters, words and books as material and content for his art, Coupland harnesses the power of language in the visual realm.

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  • Title: Tokyo Harbour
  • Creator: Douglas Coupland
  • Date: 2000
  • Physical Dimensions: w132 x h236 x d12 cm
  • Exhibition section: Words Into Objects
  • Credit line: Private Collection
  • Type: sculpture
  • Medium: 108 plastic bottles