Title and statement of responsibility area
Douglas Coupland fonds
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Dates of creation area
1970 - 2012 (Creation)
Physical description area
33 m of textual records and other materials
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Archival description area
Name of creator
Douglas Coupland was born December 30th, 1960 on the NATO base in Baden-Söllingen, West Germany. After Coupland’s father completed his military service in 1965, the family settled in West Vancouver. There, Coupland attended elementary and high school. After graduation, Coupland moved to Montreal to study sciences at McGill University. Returning to Vancouver a year later, Coupland entered the Diploma of Fine Arts program at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design (ECIAD). Studying three dimensional art, Coupland also compiled and wrote several editions of ECIAD’s experimental student newspaper exhibited his first art installation entitled Wave Particles and Beams in an ECIAD student space. In 1984, the first published piece of writing by Coupland appeared in the short-lived weekly, Vancouver Voice. After graduating from ECIAD, Coupland won a scholarship to study Japanese business science at the Japan America Institute of Management Science in Honolulu. He earned an honors degree after this one-year course and returned to Vancouver briefly in 1986.
Although best known as a novelist, Coupland is also an accomplished graphic designer, journalist, visual artist, playwright, and filmmaker. After Coupland’s year of study in Hawaii, he moved to Japan in 1986 and worked as a designer and researcher for the publishing company, Magazine House. Returning to Vancouver in 1987, Coupland was hired as a writer for Vancouver magazine. Coupland’s first-ever article about “Generation X,” defined as the generation of people born – after the baby boomers – in the 1960s and 1970s, was published Vancouver in September 1987.1 Also in 1987,the Vancouver Art Gallery hosted Coupland’s one-person art exhibition entitled A Floating World. Later that year, Coupland began writing for Western Living Magazine and The Vancouver Sun. In 1988, Coupland moved to Toronto to write for the alternative business magazine Vista. Along with other articles, Coupland developed a regular “Generation X” column and comic strip, animated by Paul Richove. Having read these pieces, literary agent Peter Livingston embraced Coupland’s concept and helped sell it as a book proposal to the American publishing company, St. Martin’s Press.
Originally intended as a non-fiction “handbook” for Generation X, the novel Coupland wrote while living on an advance in Palm Springs can be considered trendsetting in a number of ways. In addition to the main narrative, the book introduced elements of graphic design, pop-art and wordplay to the novel genre. The book attained critical and popular success over the summer of 1990, and by the end of the year, the Generation X concept had become a major cultural phenomenon. Since Generation X, Coupland has published seventeen major literary works: ten fiction and seven non-fiction. In the 1990s, Coupland also began writing, producing and appearing in various experimental film and television projects. He produced 6 short moving image art pieces in 1994 that aired on MTV. Also in 1995, Coupland helped to write a documentary about himself entitled Close Personal Friend. Since then Coupland has been involved in more than a dozen film, television and theatrical productions.
In the past ten years Coupland has returned to visual arts, utilizing diverse media and experimenting with various forms. In the late 1990s, Coupland developed a website entitled Coupland.com. The website combined elements of Coupland’s prose (lesser known articles and journal-style postings) with scanned collages and other digitally rendered multi-media images. Arguably one of the first ‘blog’ projects undertaken by a well-known writer and artist, Coupland.com was well received in the nascent web-design community of the mid-1990s. The visual elements of Coupland’s website marked the beginning of Coupland’s return to three-dimensional and visual art forms. Around the year 2000, Coupland developed a series of furniture pieces for the furniture company Pure Design. Also in 2000, Coupland created an art installation entitled Spike. The installation, which featured human-sized plastic objects debuted in Vancouver and was later shown at the Totem Gallery in New York. Since then, Coupland has created or contributed to more than twenty major visual art projects, installations and exhibitions. While working in various capacities over the course of his career, Coupland has maintained consistent creative focus in two areas: 1) literary works with a strong visual sensibility 2) visual art (particularly sculptural) projects that challenge aesthetic conventions.
Coupland has earned a number of awards and distinctions since the 1990s. In 2001, Coupland’s Alma Mater (ECIAD) awarded him an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts. Over the course of the 2000s, three of Coupland’s books (City of Glass, Terry and Souvenir of Canada 2) were nominated for BC Book Prizes, awarded by the Association of B.C. Booksellers. In 2005, Coupland was awarded a Vancouver Arts Award for his writing accomplishments. In 2006, the Leacock Association short-listed JPod for its annual Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour. Finally, as part of British Columbia’s 150th anniversary celebrations in 2008, the Royal British Columbia Museum named Coupland one of the 150 most influential people in British Columbia’s history.
Scope and content
Fonds consists primarily of records created by Coupland from approximately 1980 to 2012. The fonds includes: drafts of Coupland’s major literary works, personal and artistic photographs, visual art material (such as collages, paintings, printouts of digital collages and sculpture maquettes), items of clothing and leather goods, technical notes and designs for Coupland’s website, conceptual sketches and designs, correspondence, and other records.
Immediate source of acquisition
The first accession of the Coupland fonds arrived in 69 boxes. While much of the material had little arrangement, an initial inventory describing some items in each box arrived with the accession. This initial inventory can be viewed by researchers, and is located in RBSC’s Douglas Coupland fonds Accessions File.
Each original box contained items related to many aspects of Coupland’s activities, and were from a particular time period identified by Coupland. There was no apparent order within each box. The archival assistant therefore assigned series while processing the fonds. Series are loosely based on the arrangement of Coupland’s projects on his website, http://coupland.com.
As records were transferred into archival boxes and folders, the archival assistant recorded each item or file’s location within the original box that arrived at RBSC. A list of each file’s location within the original Coupland boxes (in other words, the original order of the fonds) can be viewed by researchers and is located in the Douglas Coupland fonds Accessions File. Section 3 of this finding aid, entitled “File Inventory by Box-File Number” is a loose approximation of the Coupland fonds’ original order.
Subsequent accruals have been integrated with this arrangement, existing in sub-series determined by the nature of the records.
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Further accruals are expected.
Includes ca. 1425 photographs: multiple processes, ca. 40 audio and videocassettes, ca. 30 objects, (items from first accrual), 86 collages and 12 artist's proof placards
A list of photographs is available in attached PDF inventory (PDF page 132-142).
Photograph identifier: BC-2121
Includes ca. 150 photographs: multiple processes, ca. 50 audio and videocassettes, ca. 40 objects, (items from first accrual), ca. 433 textile objects, 86 collages and 12 artist's proofs
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