Born 1975, Blackpool, UK
Lives Seattle, USA + London, UK
In his recent work, British-born, Seattle-based artist James Coupe examines the power and meaning of surveillance in our everyday life by working with advanced surveillance technologies, including high definition video cameras, facial recognition software, and computer algorithms derived from popular search engines and social media sites. Coupe works in new media but his artistic practice is anchored in an engagement with older media– namely, cinema, literature, and, most recently, the panorama. Situated at the intersection of the virtual, the fictional, and the real, Coupe’s work examines the ways that contemporary surveillance society simultaneously foregrounds self-observation and mutual observation, and thus mobilizes the classic scopophilic dialectic of voyeurism and exhibitionism. But, rather than subjecting surveillance to a systematic ideological critique, Coupe’s interests lie in the way surveillance provides a theme and metaphor for exploring the paradoxes of the postmodern human condition.
Coupe’s work ranges from video installation to public art and Internet-based projects. It includes (re)collector (2007), a city-wide surveillance camera network that attempted to reconstruct Michelangelo Antonioni’s classic film, Blow-Up, from people’s everyday activities; The Lover(2011), a museum installation that used demographic profiling software to pair up visitors and cast them as the title characters in a modified version of Harold Pinter’s play of the same name; and Today, too, I experienced something I hope to understand in a few days (2010), a Facebook application that recombines status posts, video portraits and YouTube videos to generate short films based upon Jorgen Leth’s 1967 experimental film, The Perfect Human. In 2013 Coupe exhibited four new works, including On the Observing of the Observer of the Observers, a 13-room surveillance video narrative; Sanctum, a public artwork that merges video surveillance with social media; and Swarm, an installation based upon J.G. Ballard’s High Rise that received an Honorary Mention for Interactive Art at Ars Electronica.
Coupe received his MFA from the University of Edinburgh and a PhD from the University of Washington. He has received numerous grants, commissions and fellowships from organizations including Creative Capital, Toronto International Film Festival, and the Mellon Foundation. His work has been exhibited widely in Europe, North America and Asia, at venues such as Camden Arts Centre, Parsons The New School for Design, and the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art. He is an Associate Professor of Digital Art and Experimental Media at the University of Washington, one of the first studio-based PhD programs for artists in the USA.