In an imaginary near future in which bees are extinct, one of the main characters of Coupland’s novel Generation A is astonishingly stung by one while she is creating an ‘Earth Sandwich’, an interconnected performance patently inspired by a real challenge issued to viewers by the online artist and vlogger Ze Frank in 2006. An ‘Earth Sandwich’ is created when two people simultaneously place two slices of bread on exactly opposite sides of the planet using GPS coordinates, so that, as the woman explains: “you make the sandwich, you post it, and maybe someone somewhere will see it, and once they’ve seen it, you’ve created art” (Coupland, 2009: 9). Apart from the viral and transnational character of any form of creativity on the internet, favoured by a vertiginous acceleration of culture, what the novel mostly brings to the fore, by colliding the stories and figures of five characters stung by a bee in disparate parts of the globe (North America, Canada, New Zealand, France, and Sri Lanka), is in fact the recognition of a growing ‘shrinking’ (Harvey, 1990) or rather ‘flattening’ (Friedman, 2005) of the world – as if it were a sandwich indeed – as exchange of information becomes more readily and globally available through technology. Yet, as this paper aims to demonstrate, by having his characters eventually – and quite cathartically – reunited on an island which can be seen as the real-life correlative of the virtual ‘contact zones’ (Pratt, 1992) they more usually frequent on the web, Coupland explores the ways in which this sort of transnational and transcultural hyper-universe we inhabit can be both utopian and dystopian. Indeed, if globalization’s condition of ‘complex connectivity’ already implies a tension towards a unification (and a homogenisation) of the world (Tomlinson, 1999), the deterritorialising web that covers the planet could be seen as producing depersonalisation as well. The interconnected globe is a place where, as Coupland writes in his book on McLuhan, not only has “geography […] become irrelevant” but “the voice inside your head has become a different voice. It used to be ‘you’. Now [it] is that of a perpetual nomad drifting along a melting landscape, living day to day, expecting everything and nothing” (Coupland, 2010: 9). A condition that the author arguably performs, and wants the viewer to experience, also through his 2014 Vancouver exhibition/installation “everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything”, where face- and home-less figures mingle with unlocatable places and where so called ‘Slogans for the 21st century’ cry out that “Your sense of community is now something you visit at 11.30 p.m. on a website”. The irony is that you can visit the exhibition itself on a website, by simply crossing the virtual spaces of Google Cultural Institute, which is currently considered one of the most valuable promoters of art and culture as transnational property.

Esposito, L. (2017). “The Earth as a Sandwich: The Collapse of Geography in Douglas Coupland’s Global Imagination”. In Rossella Ciocca Annamaria Lamarra C. Maria Laudando (a cura di), Transnational Subjects: Cultural and Literary Encounters (pp. 63-72). ITA : LIGUORI.

“The Earth as a Sandwich: The Collapse of Geography in Douglas Coupland’s Global Imagination”

Lucia Esposito
2017

Abstract

In an imaginary near future in which bees are extinct, one of the main characters of Coupland’s novel Generation A is astonishingly stung by one while she is creating an ‘Earth Sandwich’, an interconnected performance patently inspired by a real challenge issued to viewers by the online artist and vlogger Ze Frank in 2006. An ‘Earth Sandwich’ is created when two people simultaneously place two slices of bread on exactly opposite sides of the planet using GPS coordinates, so that, as the woman explains: “you make the sandwich, you post it, and maybe someone somewhere will see it, and once they’ve seen it, you’ve created art” (Coupland, 2009: 9). Apart from the viral and transnational character of any form of creativity on the internet, favoured by a vertiginous acceleration of culture, what the novel mostly brings to the fore, by colliding the stories and figures of five characters stung by a bee in disparate parts of the globe (North America, Canada, New Zealand, France, and Sri Lanka), is in fact the recognition of a growing ‘shrinking’ (Harvey, 1990) or rather ‘flattening’ (Friedman, 2005) of the world – as if it were a sandwich indeed – as exchange of information becomes more readily and globally available through technology. Yet, as this paper aims to demonstrate, by having his characters eventually – and quite cathartically – reunited on an island which can be seen as the real-life correlative of the virtual ‘contact zones’ (Pratt, 1992) they more usually frequent on the web, Coupland explores the ways in which this sort of transnational and transcultural hyper-universe we inhabit can be both utopian and dystopian. Indeed, if globalization’s condition of ‘complex connectivity’ already implies a tension towards a unification (and a homogenisation) of the world (Tomlinson, 1999), the deterritorialising web that covers the planet could be seen as producing depersonalisation as well. The interconnected globe is a place where, as Coupland writes in his book on McLuhan, not only has “geography […] become irrelevant” but “the voice inside your head has become a different voice. It used to be ‘you’. Now [it] is that of a perpetual nomad drifting along a melting landscape, living day to day, expecting everything and nothing” (Coupland, 2010: 9). A condition that the author arguably performs, and wants the viewer to experience, also through his 2014 Vancouver exhibition/installation “everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything”, where face- and home-less figures mingle with unlocatable places and where so called ‘Slogans for the 21st century’ cry out that “Your sense of community is now something you visit at 11.30 p.m. on a website”. The irony is that you can visit the exhibition itself on a website, by simply crossing the virtual spaces of Google Cultural Institute, which is currently considered one of the most valuable promoters of art and culture as transnational property.
978-882076737-2
Esposito, L. (2017). “The Earth as a Sandwich: The Collapse of Geography in Douglas Coupland’s Global Imagination”. In Rossella Ciocca Annamaria Lamarra C. Maria Laudando (a cura di), Transnational Subjects: Cultural and Literary Encounters (pp. 63-72). ITA : LIGUORI.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11590/412777
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