A McDonald’s burger bar without any customers or staff present, gradually floods with water. As the water rises the food and furniture begin to float around, the lights and electrics short circuit and darkness falls, all while the cameras roll registering underwater and above water. The Danish artist collective SUPERFLEX’ Flooded Mc Donald’s is screening at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art.
There is something dreadfully wrong at the outset and in the end, the whole thing goes down in a Titanic-like way. French fries, chairs and the characteristic packaging are floating around within the pallid-turbid stream that the world has become after the water’s inexplicable rise.
The film Flooded McDonald’s, 2008, subscribes to basic cultural tales: the Flood, or the Apocalypse, as well as to a modern horror scenario related to the thawing out of the poles. However, it’s not like in the Hollywood movies, where there’s an easily grasped and neat little story to hold onto.
The artists have refrained from a dramatizing soundtrack and rejected any other kind of human intervention – it all just happens! And of course, nothing is more anxiety-provoking than the incomprehensible’s sudden appearance within the recognizable world which we had been thinking all along was practically and commercially fitted out for the delight and the benefit of all of us. We live and learn, though. My world forms part of yours!
“We live at a time when apocalypse has become a theme. Before, it was something occult, something preachers on someway-out TV channel might talk about, but now it’s the REAL apocalypse – climate change etc.”
SUPERFLEX, Louisiana Revy, 50, no.1.
We meet a standard interior in the global fast food franchise, McDonald’s: actually a hand-built model in full scale. Few global brands have been as subject to rage as McDonald’s when anti-capitalism demonstrations take place. But even if SUPERFLEX are generally on the side of reality in their artistic practice, this particular piece, in all its non-edification, is a much broader statement. The artists themselves call it a symbolic movie, because despite its extreme familiarity, the McDonald’s interior is in fact both the whole world and anywhere in the world.
This is essentially how brands operate. And SUPERFLEX has a very special relationship to brands: their own name sounds and effectively functions as one. In a number of their works– the best known is their engagement with Guaraná beverage – they have rendered activism thematic along with the pervasive theme of rebellion in a world where technologies that are crucial to people’s survival are frequently turned into objects for commercial monopolization. Their biogas system in Africa is also part and parcel of this praxis: the beverage being a fight against Coca-Cola and the biogas being one aspect of a more self-help-oriented approach.
With works like Free Beer, from 2005, SUPERFLEX has been prodding art as a discussion about open source or free access. Here we have items of merchandise from a supermarket which, together with a recipe, constitute a potential microbrewery. The point, however, is also that the art work is the narrative about what is possible: an image representing a process. With Flooded McDonald’s, the commodities are down from the shelves, and the whole mess is sailing around aimlessly without the protection of the brand