Reflections on “Golden Tree” by Douglas Coupland

On Saturday, August 6, 2016, the installation of artist Douglas Coupland‘s “Golden Tree,” a 13-metre, public art homage to The Hollow Tree in Stanley Park, was celebrated. To help mark the occasion, Mr. Coupland provided us his reflections on the artwork’s inspiration. The photos below were taken in late June 2016 during the installation of the artwork.

The Golden Tree

Artwork and words by Douglas Coupland
Images Courtesy of Karen MillsPublic Art Management

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Golden Tree (2016) by Douglas Coupland – installation image by Karen Mills

I remember growing up and seeing photos of redwood stumps in northern California, photos in which, “Wow! You can drive a car right through it!” I remember always thinking of what an affront to nature it was to use a car as a standard of bigness, but that was the early twentieth century. Later in the century, in 1995, I was in Ireland and phoning home for voicemail messages and had one from my mother that said, “Hi Dear, Constable So-and-so from the Vancouver Police phoned to ask if you’d deliberately left your VW parked inside the Hollow Tree in Stanley Park before you left and, to be honest, with you we never know, so could you give him a ring?” My car had been stolen from an underground parkade and abandoned in the tree by joyriders.

Culture - Public Art - Private Sector - Douglas Coupland - Hollow Tree - 8018 - 8150 Cambie - 8031 - 8131 Nunavut Lane - image - installation 02

Golden Tree (2016) by Douglas Coupland – installation image by Karen Mills

In 2006 Stanley Park’s Hollow Tree, an 800-year-old Western red cedar stump, was damaged in a particularly bad storm, and the City of Vancouver made a stab at removing it. I don’t know what they were thinking.

Everyone in the city went crazy. The Hollow Tree is where people had their grad photos taken. It’s where they had their first kiss; it’s where everybody takes their relatives from overseas. In 2009 the Hollow Tree Conservation Society, funded entirely by private donations, stabilized the tree, and in October 2011 it was restored as well as possible, and made open to the public. I was pretty supportive of this project but years later I’m looking at the tree and I can see its days are numbered. It’s a piece of dead wood hundreds of years old. It’s rotting. It’s nature.

Culture - Public Art - Private Sector - Douglas Coupland - Hollow Tree - 8018 - 8150 Cambie - 8031 - 8131 Nunavut Lane - image - installation 01

Golden Tree (2016) by Douglas Coupland – installation image by Karen Mills

So I wondered, “Why not transform the tree? Why not put it through a mirror and have it come out the other side as a mythical entity?” This is what I did with the Golden Tree at the corner of SW Marine Drive and Cambie Street. It’s a mirror of something that once was — and will still be for a little while — and it establishes the existence of an evolving city that has an evolving sense of nature and ecosystems. It’s also located at the Canada Line Station, and I realize for many people coming to Vancouver, they’ll see the Golden Tree before they see the Hollow Tree, as if reading the chapters in a book in the wrong order, and isn’t that life?


This work is a commission by Intracorp Canada for the MC² condo development, located at Cambie Street and Southeast Marine Drive in Vancouver, BC as part of their participation in the City of Vancouver’s Public Art Program for Private Development.

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Golden Tree (2016) by Douglas Coupland – installation image by Karen Mills

 

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