Douglas Coupland

  • Monira Al Qadiri, OR-BIT 1, 2016, 3-D-printed plastic, automotive paint, levitation module, 11 3⁄4 × 7 7⁄8 × 7 7⁄8". From “Crude.”


    “Oil creates the illusion of a completely changed life, life without work, life for free,” the Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuściński observed in his 1985 book Shah of Shahs. “The concept of oil expresses perfectly the eternal human dream of wealth achieved through lucky accident, through the kiss of fortune and not by sweat, anguish, hard work. In this sense oil is a fairytale, and like every fairytale, a bit of a lie.” Curator Murtaza Vali probed these false promises with “Crude,” a group show that sought to elucidate petroleum’s role in driving post–World War II political shifts in the Persian


    FROM MUSEUMS TO HOLLYWOOD, visionary artists and filmmakers—Paul McCarthy, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Jeff Koons, and Marina Abramović, to name a few—are taking on ambitious virtual-reality projects. Writer and artist DOUGLAS COUPLAND—who has prognosticated some of the most critical generational shifts of our time—and curator DANIEL BIRNBAUM met to discuss these endeavors and the future of technology and desire.

    DANIEL BIRNBAUM: Have you seen anything memorable in VR?

    DOUGLAS COUPLAND: Yes . . . it was a beautiful summer evening three years ago. I’d invited a few friends over, and one of them arrived with the most recent Oculus Rift headset. I had two VR experiences. First, I flew over a Cajun swamp in pursuit of purple lights in the distance. Then I collected asteroids in the rings of Saturn. No sound.

    The twist was that when I removed the goggles, I looked at my favorite room in the world, filled with good friends on that beautiful summer evening, and I thought, Man, what a dump.

    The thing about VR is

  • Rex Ray. Photo: Miriam Santos-Kayda.
    passages March 11, 2015

    Rex Ray (1956–2015)

    I KNEW REX was going to be instant family. He had a big rubber smile, and an endless stream of wit, warmth, taste—and a bottomless knowledge of Warholiana. It was the mid-1990s, and I remember thinking, This is why it’s great to be an adult: because you get to know people like Rex Ray. Oddly, the night we met Rex said, “If you’d met me three months ago I would have been bitter, and you wouldn’t have liked me.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “I was working as a clerk at City Lights books, and I was the world’s bitterest clerk, and I decided one day that I’m not going to be bitter anymore.”

    I found it difficult

  • Hallgrímur Helgason, History of Icelandic Literature, Vol. IV, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 63 3/4 x 51 1/8".

    Hallgrímur Helgason

    Perhaps no other place on earth can claim to be more genuinely extraterrestrial than Iceland, and perhaps no other language sounds, when spoken, as though it were being made up by the speaker as he or she goes along. The country is an island with a small population base—there are no secrets, and one almost expects the existence of telepathy. The transcendental lurks around every corner, and enlightenment hides just over every hill. This all adds up to hyperliteracy: Iceland, the homeland of the saga, has the world’s highest per capita consumption of books.

    Hallgrímur Helgason is a Reykjavík

  • The art that inspired them in 2000

    Those of us who live and breathe contemporary art will hold to the idea that art does change, if not the world, then the way we live in it. But our “world” can be more insular than we care to admit. So to open our look back at 2000, we asked twenty-one “outsiders” we admire—from novelist J.G. Ballard to musician John Zorn—to tell us about the art that inspired them this year.

    Dave Eggers (novelist)
    About a year ago, I saw Marcel Dzama’s stuff in zingmagazine and fell madly in love. Then his show at David Zwirner just killed me. A hundred or so drawings (bears with handguns, whale-men

  • Verner Panton

    FIVE YEARS AGO I was having lunch at a friend's place in New York. There against a wall was a lovely curvy white molded plastic chair, which I grabbed to sit on. My friend fairly lunged at me, yanked it away, and said, “No! It may look great, but the damn thing's turning to dust. I had one of them shatter just last week.”

    By the time Verner Panton's stacking chair was unveiled in 1967, other designers, most famously Charles and Ray Eames and Eero Saarinen, had tried and failed to produce a one-piece plastic prototype. It took Panton nine years, but he was the first to succeed, and the now-iconic

  • On and Off Line

    THIS YEAR I SPENT a good part of the summer in California helping assemble a special issue of Wired magazine on “The Future of the Future.” As part of the process I simply sat down and considered the assumptions I thought were implicit in the word “future.” A few examples:

    Thinking about the future means you want something.
    It is a mistake to equate comfort with progress.
    Money no longer protects you from the future.
    The future hasn’t always existed.
    The future is as artificial as a ’66 Mustang.

    Another intellectual game I played with myself, and one that revealed unexpected thoughts, was pretending

  • The Where There: Traveling Lite

    This summer, author Douglas Coupland met Rem Koolhaas in Paris. Together they traveled to Lille and then through Belgium and on to Rotterdam and Amsterdam. As they went, Coupland kept these alphabetized travel notes.

    Why are we afraid to dynamite our disasters? Is it not possible to retrofit this Cartesian gulag into something a bit more hip? Can it be Blade-Runner-ized?

    Belgium (1)
    The world’s first drive-thru nation.

    Belgium (2)
    Tintin comes from Belgium. He has no history or religion or parents or politics or fixed residence or class identity. He’s a role model for the 21st century.



    Imagine living on the edge of the world—literally (Vancouver)—and attending a small elementary school in a remote suburb next to a forest, beyond which there is nothing except forest and alps and tundra and ice for thousands of miles until the North Pole, which itself is nothing in particular. Next stop after that: again literally, Siberia.

    Imagine the year is 1970 and you are eight years old. Imagine that you have no religion. Imagine the houses that you and your friends live in are all built by contractors and furnished with dreams provided by Life magazine. Imagine you inhabit a world with no