In 2000, novelist and visual artist Douglas Coupland's book Miss Wyoming was launched with a promotional tour (this was still the golden age of the book tour). Throughout, Coupland faxed diary entries for himself and his readers, which were emailed to a webmaster that posted them onto Coupland's website. Now, recovered and released exclusively with SHOWstudio, I DON'T MISS WYOMING sends us hurtling back to the unique sliver of time between the end of the 1990s and 9/11. Incidentally, 2000 was also the year SHOWstudio was founded by Nick Knight. Twenty years on and our relationship with the internet is transformed and the world is experiencing another strange moment; the feeling of being in-between permeates.
Since that year, Coupland has written thirteen novels, written and performed for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and contributed to titles including The Financial Times, The New York Times and Vice. Together with two museum retrospectives, in 2015 Coupland was artist-in-residence in the Paris Google Cultural Institute. He is particularly well known for his sharp commentary on modern day life and popular culture; Miss Wyoming follows two protagonists, a former pageant star and film producer, who find their stars fading. It covers the obsession human beings have with fame - the aspiration to just be 'famous' has become a beast all of its own in the two decades since it was published. So who better than Coupland to reflect on where we are now in 2020?
Looking back, a book tour may now seem archaic - as Coupland reflects in his updated diary entries - but it raises the question of where the future of print and publishing stand today. What detriment has the internet had on our lives, on our attention spans? Has our patience dried up? Coupland's digital diary records passing the time by people-watching, an almost unthinkable activity for most millenials glued to their phones today.
This exclusive download includes a collection of 49 diary entries which will take you hurtling back in time and into the mind of one of the world's most famed minds, before hurtling back to present.
We spoke to the author ahead of the launch:
SHOWstudio: Aside from it being twenty years, what is the personal significance of releasing this project now?
Douglas Coupland: It feels archaeological, like sifting through layers of time and finding the dinosaur’s footprints. So much of what happened that year can and never will happen again. At the same time, it feels like ten minutes ago… I feel like I’m bungying between two extremes. The layers in between are invisible.
SS: It’s interesting how you point out how the internet has played a central role in the demise of the traditional publishing system. But then we have these diary entries relating to physical events, created and preserved by the internet, by technology. How do you consolidate technology’s dual ability to both preserve and destroy?
DC: It did. Some stuff will go on, but the core is evaporating by the second. Writers finally have a way to make more than the 7.5% of a book’s retail price which is what they get now. They say it’s 15% but it’s not, because all books are ‘deep discounted.’ The economics of publishing are the worst of any creative endeavour. What surprises me is how much work went into the diaries. Also, not included in this PDF download, were complex collages that had to be FedEx’d to Vancouver to be scanned and reassembled. The file sizes were massive in 2000, and now those files are laughably tiny. The real collages were thrown out by accident three years ago, so now we only have these utterly unsatisfying small jpeg files which only hint at, but don’t deliver, the real thing. The things we don’t consider thinking about are the things that history wants the most. People are often not their own best curators.
SS: There’s a sense in your latest updated diary entry that you feel technology has overtaken human beings, that it is no longer in our best interests. What made it so much better in 2000 than now?
DC: I remember working at Wired in 1993 and the Klondike sensation of being in the right moment at the right time. It was great energy, but at the same time I remember it felt a bit delusional and naïve, the idea that somehow these new technologies would only ever be used by the powers of good. And now, of course, that’s come to pass in spades. In 2000 the dark side had yet to kick in.
SS: As someone who creates work for an audience, how has the way you engage with that audience changed since 2000?
DC: I used to love audiences and now I don’t. It has nothing to do with COVID-19. Around five years ago I decided I don’t want to be out front anymore and I felt like I’d shed a massive weight. Also, I’ve grown up alongside my core readers and we’re all that much older and my interests have shifted, mostly into visual work which seems to occur, in the end, online mostly. I think if I only wrote and did nothing else I’d cease to exist. I don’t miss or mourn anything. Right now is better than yesterday. The world is a magical enchanting place. We get to be alive…we may be the only alive things in all of the universe - it’s fantastic.