Entertainment

Q&A: Douglas Coupland dishes on gooey Gumhead statue

For more than two months, people have been sticking gum on Douglas Coupland's head.

If it sounds like a gooey mess, that's because it is. Fortunately, the chewing gum has been contained to a seven-foot sculpture of the world-renowned novelist and artist— not his actual head.

Passersby were invited to stick their chewing gum on the sculpture, called Gumhead, in May when it was erected on Howe Street outside the Vancouver Art Gallery in conjunction with Coupland's “everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything” exhibition.

Today, almost every inch of the interactive social sculpture is coated in wads of chewing gum that, combined with the summer heat wave, has morphed into a melted mess. Bees and wasps are also now calling Gumhead's sticky surface home, it seems.

Today, almost every inch of the interactive social sculpture is coated in wads of chewing gum that, combined with the summer heat wave, has morphed into a melted mess. Bees and wasps are also now calling Gumhead's sticky surface home, it seems.

Before the exhibition and Gumhead come down Sept. 1, Metro Vancouver reached out to Coupland for an email interview on what he thinks of Gumhead's progression.

Metro: Gumhead is almost completely covered in gum.

Coupland: It’s so ugly-beautiful, isn’t it? A total success.

M: What are your thoughts on its progression so far?

C: At first the added gum looked like jewels against the black. And then the Excel chewing gum van parked beside it during the Jazz Festival and took the whole head to the next level. And then we had a heat wave and the gum started to weep. And now it has a 24-hours cloud of bees and wasps around it. It’s a dream.

M: How did you expect the sculpture to evolve? Does it meet your expectations or have there been any surprises?

C: The big surprise was mango flavored Hubba Bubba, which provides rich vibrant deep yellow hits of colour. Also, people don’t seem to chew pink bubble-gum much any more. It’s like almost the entire gum industry has moved over to off-whites. This is a loss for society.

M: Gumhead has been described as both genius and disgusting, depending on who you ask. What do you think about the reaction Gumhead is getting?

C: I’ve been everywhere and I’ve never seen people interact so intimately and for such a long time as they do with Gumhead. And people who drive past it every day like to monitor its progress. It’s eight pieces in one: a self-portrait, a still life, a landscape, social sculpture, performance art, conceptual art and time-based art. And it wants to be your friend.

M: It’s been a hot and dry summer in Vancouver, and some of the gum has been melting off the statue.

C: Ah yes… the goo factor.

M: Bees and wasps also appear to have taken up residence on the sculpture. Does this add to Gumhead's progression from an artistic point of view?

C: Bonus — now it’s ecological art! Note: some hotels downtown have beehives on their roofs to make their own honey. I don’t know if I’d eat that.

M: When will Gumhead come down and what will happen to it?

C: Gumhead comes down on Labour Day. There’s a strong chance it’s going to Toronto for when the show goes there in January. It’s fiberglass, so we’ll power-wash it and start the process all over… in crazy winter weather. I’m wondering if gum will stick in a minus-10 environment.

M: Will it find a permanent home somewhere?

C: It would be a hard piece to live with inside my house. Maybe I can put it on my roof and have it staring at my neighbours. Or possibly make a mold of the whole piece, cast it in bronze, and then paint the chewing gum on top of the bronze… a permanent masterpiece.

Photo Gallery

  • Jennifer Wright sticks her gum on the statue of Douglas Coupland's head on May 31, 2014.

  • May 31, 2014.

  • June 26, 2014.

  • July 3, 2014.

  • A Canadian flag was affixed to the statue on July 3, 2014.

  • July 9, 2014.

  • July 17, 2014.

  • Jennifer Gauthier/Metro

    A passersby sticks gum on July 24, 2014.

  • Bees were seen on Gumhead on July 24, 2014.

  • Jennifer Gauthier/Metro

    A boy tries to shake off gum stuck to his foot next to Douglas Coupland's Gumhead statue outside the Vancouver Art Gallery.

  • Bees were seen on Gumhead on July 24, 2014.