Delaware, 2016

Douglas Coupland
Delaware, 2016
Acrylic on archival pigment print; 127 x 101.6 cm
Installation view: Art in the Age of Anxiety
Sharjah Art Foundation, 2020
Courtesy of the artist and Daniel Faria Gallery, Toronto
Photo: Danko Stjepanovic

Overview

A novelist, visual artist and designer, Douglas Coupland has published thirteen novels, a collection of short stories, seven nonfiction books and a number of dramatic works and screenplays for film and television. Coupland’s visual and literary work examines the changes modern technologies embed in human nature. He is a member of the Royal Canadian Academy and an Officer of the Order of Canada, an Officer of the Order of British Columbia and a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

Facebook’s facial recognition technology, one of the most powerful algorithms in the world, is one of the continual sites of exploration throughout Art in the Age of Anxiety. Coupland’s Delaware (2016) and Father Figure (2016), two of a number of works on the same theme, were created as a commentary on Facebook’s corporate initiative to use their facial recognition algorithms to identify all faces posted to their online platform. At the time, Facebook's proposition was a small taste of the invasion of privacy that now typifies the online experience. The portraits presented here are obscured through scientific camouflage and deflection techniques—using iconography that is reminiscent of modernist abstraction.

The camouflage is painted, not digitally applied, on top of the large, high-resolution photos to create images that are neither masks nor generic abstraction. They dually conceal and technologically reveal our identity, representing the state of in-between-ness that pervades the modern mind.