'Everybody On Earth Is Feeling The Same Way As You': Douglas Coupland offers slogans for the COVID-19 age
The Vancouver artist and Generation X author says the virus reveals how profoundly interconnected we are
Originally published on April 14, 2020
It was back in May of 2011 when Vancouver's Waldorf Hotel decided to have YouTube Night with Doug — the "Doug" being famed artist and Generation X author Douglas Coupland.
The organizers wanted to create posters to coincide with the show, so Coupland created slogans in large block letters — thought-provoking lines like "I Miss My Pre-Internet Brain" and "Knowing Everything Turns Out To Be Slightly Boring."
But in the COVID age, many of the slogans have taken on an even greater relevance — and now Coupland has started adding to the list.
"They seem fresh. They came alive in a way that they never were before, and that really took me by surprise. So I just started posting them online and then adding a few new ones to the mix," says Coupland in an interview with q host Tom Power.
"It's like there's just this voice that wants to come through. It's part anxiety, part irony, part desperation, part coming right from the soul," he says.
"And people seem to be grokking onto them, so I guess as long as this thing's going on, I'm going to keep doing them."
Coupland says some of the slogans that have taken on new meaning include "None Of This Should Come As A Surprise," "It's All Happening Way Faster Than We Thought" and "Lonely Isolated People Consume More."
"They drive more cars, they consume more health-care, they eat way more food. And as you can tell I'm being sort of ironic and cynical here, but that was written for a show that was, I think five years ago now," says Coupland.
"And again, looking at it in the light of the present, it's like, 'Oh, that's kind of dark.'"
But not all of the slogans are quite as foreboding: one that Coupland finds particularly uplifting is "Everybody On Earth Is Feeling The Same Way As You."
"That, more than anything, defines the present moment, that we're all in this together. There's no one who escapes this. Movie stars don't escape it. The one percent of the one percent, everybody is in it together," says Coupland. "And there's something wonderful that comes from that."
Now Coupland is adding to the list with slogans that are specific to the COVID-19 era, among them "A Plague Without Wi-Fi Would Be Truly Horrible" and "Today I Heard Tweens Discussing Supply Chains."
"Now everyone talks about supply chains, and everyone knows how interconnected we are in the world. If 9/11 gave us one way of looking at globalization, then this is like the second shoe falling on the future of globalization and what it may or may not mean," says Coupland, who adds that the slogan that keeps going through his own mind is "Boredom, Anxiety, Twilight Zone, Repeat."
So what has Coupland's experience of self-isolation been like? He finds that time is shrinking and expanding in odd ways, and that he regularly loses track of what day it is. ("I don't think we have days of the week anymore to honest," he quips. "I think they're gone.")
He's also turning to music, and to his bookshelf. "I'm listening to a lot of jazz. I'm really loving it and I'm trying not to watch too much TV, although it's very tempting because there is so much on," says Coupland.
"And I am actually reading. I went to my library and said, 'You know, I've always wanted to read that.' Waiting for that rainy day to happen," he says.
"Well, we're now living in a permanent rainy day. So why not?"
Written by Jennifer Van Evra. Interview produced by Cora Nijhawan.