Superflex's "Flooded McDonald's" at Peter Blum
Review by Elizabeth Greenwood
Millennial pop culture will be remembered for a few marked trends - communication in 140 characters or less, vampires with Victorian sexual mores, and the fascination with end times that saturates current cinema. The Book of Eli, The Road, and 2012 came out within months of each other last year. Dime store psychology suggests anxiety and alienation about our modern moment. And in what better venue for the existential dramas of our time to implode than a McDonald's?
While wading through knee-deep slush down 29th street to the Peter Blum Gallery last month, one may think they have indeed entered the apocalypse.
The Superflex "Flooded McDonald's" video installation provides a moment of repose from the living. The Danish collective, founded in 1993, scrutinizes power, agency and ownership. This is the group's first solo show in New York City, and they make a strong statement in the financial capital of the world, with the fast-food giant serving as a consummate symbol of America, homogenization and free markets.
The 21-minute film takes place in the lurid browns, reds, and yellows of an older McDonald's, a garish, muddy predecessor to the sleek McCafés of late. There are no lollygagging teenagers or screaming toddlers in the store, only half-eaten French fries and unwrapped Filet-O-Fish linger after the Rapture. It looks as if people vacated the premises in a frenzy. For a few moments, before the inevitable flood washes the restaurant into a watery grave, as the camera pans over newly minted Big Macs, one's baser appetites might beg the question, "Are you going to finish that?"
Like Morgan Spurlock's Supersize Me, utilizing McDonald's as a symbol to deconstruct gluttony -- in health or economics -- can be problematic, as the audience may end up craving that which is being criticized (not that I would know).
But "Flooded McDonald's" is so captivating because it avoids the esotericism characteristic of many gallery video installations. McDonald's patent uniformity provides a universal experience that any viewer can sink into, making the immediacy of the flood tangible. It is us who are drowning. We recognize this apocalypse.
As the flood waters rise, the lights go out, cups and soggy fries swirl like algae, the submersion envelops and the film begins to feel less like high art and more like a documentary that is all too real. The images are hypnotizing and grotesque, suggesting the groups' commentary on mass food production or globalization or whatever.
So much can be read into this allegory that it is a worthy endeavor to slog through the gray puddles of the west side to interpret "Flooded McDonald's" according to your own political leanings and fast food preferences.
Superflex's "Flooded McDonald's" video installation piece runs through March 22 at the Peter Blum Gallery on W. 29th St.