Digital Orca – Vancouver, British Columbia - Atlas Obscura

Digital Orca

A pixel art killer whale is frozen mid-leap in this Vancouver square. 


Like something out of the movie Pixels, Douglas Coupland’s public art masterpiece, Digital Orca looks like it is leaping right out of a video game. Or maybe a giant Lego set.

Coupland is better known for his writing than his abilities as a sculptor, but that doesn’t make Digital Orca any less whimsical. The statue was installed in 2009 for the Vancouver Convention Centre Art Project. Coupland created the whale to evoke the harbor area’s history with a common sight off the western coast, the killer whale. Given Coupland’s penchant for exploring technology in his prose, it is no surprise that he has also introduced an element of technology even when creating an homage to the natural world.

Since it is permanently installed there by the seaside, the angular whale had to be built of of sturdy aluminum and coated with a protective powder coating making up the whale’s markings. Even though the whale is sturdy enough to handle the corrosive effects of the coastal weather, climbing on the craggy beast is not allowed.

The landowners, a company called Pavco, wanted the computer-age Free Willy wannabe to represent the area, and while it does its job, it also represents Coupland’s vision of life in our digitized times. 

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