Canadian novelist and artist Douglas Coupland is one of 11 artists contributing to the opening exhibition of Manchester’s new arts venue Home. The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things illustrates Home’s increased scope to entertain, provoke, inspire, startle, question and baffle. Coupland’s contribution is the visually arresting Slogans For The 21st Century.
Hello Big North.
What was the initial inspiration behind Slogans For The 21st Century?
It began with me making a list of sensations and perceptions that would have made no sense to someone from 20 years ago. It’s a subjective index of how we’re changing inside our heads, and very rapidly at that.
How has the work developed and changed over time?
Over the years I became better at picking up nuances, but also the perceptions I was isolating became more and more widespread. When I first started showing these four or five years ago, some people didn’t get it. Now everyone does.
What impact do you feel that technology, in particular the internet, has had on the art world and artist’s practice?
It’s done a number of things. The biggest change is in art education where instructors are far behind their students when it comes to tech, and the students have to become the teachers, which makes the students question the authority of the instructors. Also, criticism is everywhere in every form, and it flattens the landscape. There’s no longer any central validating mechanism, and this seems to be freaking people out. Who’s in charge!? Careers become memetic and last for two weeks. You have a good idea, it goes moderately viral and then… it’s over. And everyone dutifully put jpegs of their work online, where they get devoured and spat out quickly and everyone says NEXT. It’s a wild west.
What emotional response do you hope that the work produces in audiences?
The one I like best is: “Oh, thank God. I thought it was just me feeling all of this.”
Slogans traditionally express political ideals or are used a protest medium.
I disagree. I think they’re used to boost food production, to sell running shoes or to do any number of functions. You can’t just say they’re political only. To say they’re only political is a way of framing a leading question.
To what extent is this work political and what does it say about the world in 2015?
I think they foreground the idea that points of view are moulded by technologies in a way that is unprecedented. The internet is a very, very solitary experience – you’d never ask a friend over to your place to go online together. But for such a solitary experience it has an astonishing ability to generate new types of groups and to reinforce the strength of pre-existing groups. I think the biggest question of the 21st century is whether or not networked technologies favour individuals or the group – which is the most political question of all.
The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things is at Home, Manchester until 26 July