Another Day, Another Stunning Piece of Public Artwork From Douglas Coupland

'Spawn,' a major new piece from prolific Vancouver writer and artist Douglas Coupland, was unveiled this afternoon.

Would it be easier at this point to just announce what buildings and public spaces in Vancouver don’t feature a Douglas Coupland artwork? Between Digital Orca at the Convention Centre, the Gumhead installation, Moneyboy and Moneygirl at the Pacific Rim, the Bowtie at Simons, it’s clear Coupland’s got a real yes-and attitude when it comes to commissions… but we’re not complaining. There’s a reason curators, urban planners and developers alike come to the writer-artist when it’s time to add that special finishing touch to their plaza or lobby: the man knows how to create a Vancouver-inspired pop culture moment.

Which brings us to latest addition to Coupland’s portfolio: Spawn, a shimmering, sinuous hanging sculpture hanging in the atrium joining the new, 33-storey Vancouver Centre II and Scotia Tower downtown. The oversized salmon is built from glossy fibreglass panels, assembled to mimic the folds and angles of origami—or perhaps early polygon animations. Is she flying, swimming or floating, hovering in the air above? Only Coupland truly knows.

“With this work I want a viewer to think about salmon not as glorious trophy fish people post on Facebook, but rather, as an intrinsic yet vanishing part of Vancouver’s marine ecosystems,” he says in his artist’s statement.

Growing up in North Vancouver, Coupland found himself on the Capilano River Hatchery’s tour at least once a year. “By grade seven I could probably have hosted a tour myself,” he writes. “So much of our experience there wasn’t the facts and figures as it was looking through very thick glass for minutes at a time and seeing salmon at the very end of their lives — the resigned stares they give as they look out the glass at humans. Or infinity. Spawning salmon are literally disintegrating, and their skins turn unexpected colours — and then they’re gone.”

These lessons about mortality and meaning stuck with Coupland; now, the office workers and visitors at Vancouver Centre II will have the opportunity to take in the majestic, hovering Spawn each day as they pass through and contemplate similar weighty thoughts.

“Mythologically, fish represent the soul. Birds represent ideas. Flowers represent love. What is Vancouver’s soul? What was it? Where is it going? Birth and life and death and then birth again,” Coupland writes. “We are lucky to live in the city we do, but it’s a privilege, not a right to be here. Part of that privilege is a pact made between us and nature—that we nurture it alongside our metropolitan lives, and that we never think of ourselves as being the more important side of the equation.”

Vancouver Centre II is now open, and Spawn is available for public viewing during opening hours at 733 Seymour Street.