Art or eyesore? Douglas Coupland invites Vancouver to cover his face in gum
Taylor Poelman, Special to CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, May 20, 2014 12:35PM EDT
Vancouver-based artist Douglas Coupland is inviting people to stick their chewing gum on his face all summer long.
Beginning May 31, a seven-foot-tall sculpture of Coupland’s head will sit outside of the Vancouver Art Gallery, and passersby are encouraged to cover the self-portrait with wads of gum.
On the art gallery’s website, Coupland describes the urban art installation as “a gum-based, crowd-sourced, publically interactive, social-sculpture self-portrait.”
As chewing gum is added to the sculpture with the help of the public, it will change and transform into a different work of art, highlighting one of Coupland’s techniques of including mass culture in his works.
But how aesthetically pleasing will such a transformation be?
Coupland himself called attention to the potential future success of the aptly-named Gumhead, tweeting: “Eyesore …or beloved conversation starter, up for just 6 months???”
The giant replica of Coupland’s head could turn out impressive – with swirls and blotches of colour and texture covering the sculpture in an eye-catching abstraction. Or it could be just plain disgusting.
Either way, Coupland isn’t the first to turn gum-sticking into spectacle.
In 2009, travel site TripAdvisor listed the Market Theatre Gum Wall in Seattle’s Pike Place Market as number two in its “Top 5 Germiest World Attractions.”
Thriving since the early 1990s, theatre-goers would discard their sticky gum on the walls while waiting in line at the theatre. The owners of the building would arrange to have the gum removed, but they eventually gave up and the gum was allowed to spread. Now the wall is a well-known tourist attraction, with layers of gum have several inches thick in some sections.
There’s also a “Bubblegum Alley” in in downtown San Luis Obispo, Calif., which is 20 metres deep and both of its walls covered in chewed gum. And for years, tourists and Shakespeare fans would flock to Verona, Italy to see Juliet’s balcony, often leaving behind love notes stuck up with gum in the courtyard. The city has since cracked down on the practice.
Gumhead will be displayed outside the Vancouver Art Gallery as part of Coupland’s first major art showthere,entitled Copeland: everywhere is anywhere and anything is everything. It runs from May 31 to Sept. 1.