Shops at Don Mills: Coupland’s “Super Nova”

Douglas Coupland is a writer whose work I have not read, but I have used words he coined. McJob was one of his and, of course, Generation X.

I’m not sure why I haven’t felt like reading Douglas Coupland, but maybe it’s because of his sculpture. It doesn’t give me anything, not even an interesting idea, let alone a feeling. Coupland’s 3D works leave me flat.

first-viewMy first view of the Super Nova clock tower

An appointment at the Shops at Don Mills exposed me to the work in the photo without my realizing that it was one of Coupland’s. In fact, I didn’t recognize it as a work of art. I did notice the structure casually, but took it, from a distance, to be some kind of showy lighting fixture.

Discovering that the piece was Coupland’s nod to Don Mill’s history as Canada’s first planned community, I got up close. Sure enough, the boxy shapes I had taken to be soviet-style industrial light shades are actually model houses. They stick out from the top of the supporting pipe in all directions. The clock part is a digital readout wrapped around the cylinder at the bottom of my close-up.


barn-doorsDanica thought it was a windmill. That was an imaginative guess. I had in mind the metal flaps on photo studio lights … the side pieces are called barn doors. Neither of us noticed the clock part. Perhaps it wasn’t running or maybe the lights didn’t show in the bright sunlight.

Coupland offers an explanation of the piece, which is helpful because his intent escaped me, just looking at the object.

“To rectify the invisibility of the thousands of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation houses in Don Mills, I made Super Nova, a piece in which a cosmic explosion occurs and houses are sent out into the universe to colonize outer space. It’s a poetic and quite lovely haiku of a moment in Canadian history. These houses gave rise to a period of unparalleled optimism and represented a moment in which radical new ways of using art and design promised a better future. I wanted to make [this period] concrete for visitors to Shops at Don Mills to see for themselves.”

3 thoughts on “Shops at Don Mills: Coupland’s “Super Nova”

  1. I once saw a black and white study of a dog turd. To it, also, was ascribed some deep social message. Reminds me of the overriding principle in selling an advertising campaign: Bullshit baffles brains.

  2. Turds are so expressive, dog or bull. There’s an often-reviewed artist that cans and labels his own. I guess that’s personal expression … or should that be extrusion?

    Perhaps artists ARE delivering a social message, though not a particularly deep one.

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