Flooded McDonald’s, by art collective Superflex, is currently on view at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington D.C. For this recent film, Superflex painstakingly created a life-sized replica of a McDonald’s fast-food restaurant. Their deliberate choice to employ one of the most recognizable brands in the world offers a familiar point-of-departure for the viewer, while also evoking related issues of consumerism and corporate ascendancy.
As the Hirshhorn asserts, the artists ‘borrow the cinematic vocabulary of documentaries, ads, and disaster movies’. This approach is accessible and appropriately complements the main-stream setting. As the film begins, one instantly recognizes the yellow, red and otherwise neutral, utilitarian interior of the fast food chain. The counter, menu, partially eaten food and Ronald McDonald figure are all to-be-expected. Yet, the realism of the space is made strange by the absence of the typically crowded human presence. The restaurant seems to have been abandoned – creating a sense of the uncanny and imbuing the film with visual ambiguity that engages the viewer’s curiosity.
Flooded McDonald’s is exhibited as a looped digital video projection, 21 minutes in length. The film unfolds in real time and begins as it surveys the still (and empty) McDonald’s. Water then begins to fill the space, entering from under a door. Water, a powerful natural force, wreaks havoc without substantial visual obstruction. It lifts and moves chairs, trays, food and drinks around the room. It shorts the electrical circuit and becomes murky in all of the refuse. The film concludes when the fast food restaurant is finally and completely submerged.
On the one hand a filmic quip, Flooded McDonald’s open-ended nature lends itself to deeper interpretation. The film creates an artificial and concentrated natural disaster – an event which always points to the fragility of human existence. (One can’t help but think of recent flooding disasters). Furthermore, the work confronts the viewer with images of trash and destruction – highlighting over consumption and the associated waste it generates. This waste, coupled with recognizable corporate imagery, unarguably critiques capitalist excess. By destroying a fabricated prototype of the American way of life, the film seems to suggest a departure from the status quo.
Superflex, a Danish art collective founded in 1993, exhibits internationally. The collective engages viewers and participants in issues surrounding globalization. They work in film and multi-media projects that are typically realized in the real world through social intervention. Members Jakob Fenger (b. Roskilde, 1968), Rasmus Nielsen (b. Hjørring, 1969), and Bjørnstjerne Reuter Christiansen (b. Copenhagen, 1969) live and work in Copenhagen and Rio de Janeiro.
Flooded McDonald’s was on view, from January to March of this year, at Peter Blum Gallery in New York. It has also recently shown at Oriel Mostyn gallery in Wales and South London Gallery, London, UK.
Flooded McDonald’s remains at the Hirshhorn through November 28th. It is presented in conjunction with the fifth anniversary of the museum’s Black Box space, which is dedicated to new and recent work in film and video.