All images via Superflex
A square table becomes an island. A newspaper tries to cling on – but misses! – brushed off like a wet blanket. A tray becomes a life raft, a cup with a straw a submarine. Hey, there’s Ronald McDonald, home video hero. He’s floating by, limply, resigned. This is not a scene from a fast-food apocalypse but “Flooded McDonald’s”, the latest installation from Danish art collective Superflex. Find out how they managed to trade finger pointing for humour.
Everday objects take on a life of their own in “Flooded McDonald’s”:
First of all, let’s get the technicalities out of the way: no persons, animals or McDonald’s branches got harmed and all the water used was first collected and then recycled. Superflex, together with a Vietnamese film crew, reconstructed a life-size McDonald’s outlet in Bangkok in painstaking detail, just to submerge it completely.
Everything was built from scratch: the venue, the tables and chairs, the signs:
Says Bjørnstjerne Christiansen, one of the three Superflex members, in an interview with Don’t Panic magazine about the idea behind “Flooded McDonald’s”:
“Originally, the idea was not to be fun. But when it came to working with the elements it became amusing, the Ronald McDonald, the ‘wet floor’ sign. Fries and ketchup become characters. We tried to let the film happen as it happened, very fluid (laughs). We focus on different details, but we didn’t try to control.”
The installation took only four months from conception to first public screening and was shot in one take. Rather than pointing fingers at anyone in particular – not the fast-food chains, not the customers who frequent them – it invites viewers to come up with their own explanations. How does what we have viewed fit in with our own lives? Could it happen, and which part would each of us play? Says Christiansen:
“We tried to make it very open to interpretation. These cultures portrayed are more about consumerism than McDonald’s. But they capture a global image and the kind of blind behaviourism that damages people. Also the possible consequences of our lifestyles – flooding, garbage everywhere, way too many fat people. We also encourage people to take responsibility. Look at your own role in bringing about catastrophe.”
The making of “Flooded McDonald’s”:
Superflex is a three-member art collective made up of Rasmus Nielsen, Jakob Fenger and Bjørnstjerne Christiansen. The three friends met at art school in Copenhagen and have been working together since 1993. Well-known installations are the artists’ first film “Burning Car” (2008) and the Free Beer project (2005). The former is a 10-minute film that questions the media’s sensationalism, symbolised by a burning car that seems to be present whenever a story is about to unfold. The Free Beer project applies open source methods to a real-world product: beer. Though no free beer is given out, everyone is invited to use the free recipe provided to make their own. And it’s been improved: Free Beer version 3.0 is out.
“Flooded McDonald’s” will be screened at South London Gallery until 1st March and can be previewed at Vimeo. Though the general public has been swept away so far, comments from fast-food chains, especially on disaster management, have yet to come.