Douglas Coupland’s ‘Vortex’ opens at the Vancouver Aquarium


Photo of Douglas Coupland gathering marine debris in Haida Gwaii courtesy of the Vancouver Aquarium

Artist Douglas Coupland reveals his new installation at the Vancouver Aquarium on May 18.

Vortex is part of the aquarium’s Ocean Wise initiatives to raise awareness about the harmful effects that microplastics have on marine life and is an imaginative interpretation of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a gyre of marine debris swirling in the centre of the North Pacific Ocean and is estimated to be three times the size of France.

“While some plastics are released at sea, more than 80 per cent of plastic waste in the ocean is coming from land-based sources. Scientists have been speaking about ocean plastics for decades. Thankfully, this issue is now receiving mainstream attention and action,” says Dr. John Nightingale, Ocean Wise president and CEO.

The idea for the installation was sparked when Coupland visited Haida Gwaii and discovered that one of the bottles he bought in Tokyo 13 years ago had washed up on the beach with other plastic debris.

“I began working with plastic thinking it was eternal, shiny and happy,” says Coupland. “Finding that plastic bottle on the beach was like being on the receiving end of an ancient curse warning me ‘Be careful what you find seductive. Be careful the things you desire.’ I knew I had to do something to change this. We can turn this around.”

The opening of Vortex comes just days after the City of Vancouver voted to ban plastic straws foam cups and containers by June, 2019.

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Melissa is a reporter at Vancouver Is Awesome and has worked primarily in radio and online media. She grew up in Ontario, went to school in Halifax and worked in Northern B.C. before moving to Vancouver. If you've got a story to share email: