SUPERFLEX; Flooded McDonalds
SUPERFLEX, established in 1993, is a collaboration between Danish artists Bjørnstjerne Reuter Christiansen, Jakob Fenger and Rasmus Nielsen.
SUPERFLEX’s practice is characterised by a high level of social engagement and has responded to a broad range of contemporary political themes — recent works, for example, have addressed the financial markets, labour conditions, copyright, and environmentalism. Their working process often involves professionals from non-art disciplines who contribute to the development of projects that they describe as ‘tools’. As art historian Doris Berger explained, ‘[SUPERFLEX] see their work as something to be put to use’.(1) Some works relate to the notion of tools in a practical, use-value sense, such as ‘SUPERFLEX Biogas in Africa’ 1997 which enlisted the expertise of engineers in order to develop an ecologically sustainable energy source, while for others the notion of the tool has more of a conceptual or metaphorical character.
As its title suggests, Flooded McDonalds 2009 portrays an abandoned burger bar which, over the course of the 20 minutes, gradually fills up with water. Furniture, food, packaging and the statue of Ronald are lifted up by the deluge; electrical lights and cash registers short circuit until, ultimately, the entire space is submerged. The cinematography borrows equally from Hollywood and media coverage of natural disasters (notably Hurricane Katrina in the United States and the 2004 Tsunami in Asia), and exploits the viewer’s fascination with images of catastrophe and destruction.
As one of the collaborating artists Rasmus Nielsen has commented, ‘Flooded McDonalds is an epic and dark story, with mythological, apocalyptic and biblical references, but we wanted to make it as subtle as possible. It’s a slow narrative of the destructive process, which we read and hear from the media every day’.(2)
Without being didactic, the work speaks pointedly to some of the defining social themes of the past decade, particularly climate change and its relationship to consumption. In a short article published in Artforum, SUPERFLEX described the work as examining ‘the consequences of consumerism on an individual level’.(3)
'Often, society likes to locate a scapegoat for the negative effects of consumerism, such as multinational companies or politicians who are not able to deal with, say, carbon-dioxide emissions. For this film, we wanted to create an understanding of its effects on a more private register. The film is not a direct critique of McDonald’s. Consumers want to eat the chain’s products, and they become addicted to products and ideologies. McDonald’s is really an icon for the type of consumerism that has wide-ranging environmental, social, and economic consequences.'(4)
Flooded McDonalds was produced with the Propeller Group, a Ho Chi Minh City based art collaborative specialising in media production, and directed by APT5 artist Tuan Andrew Nguyen. It has been exhibited in exhibitions in London and New York to critical acclaim.
Nicholas Chambers, Artlines, no.3, 2010, p.39.
1 ‘SUPERFLEX’s Tools’, SUPERFLEX/Tools, Vela deer Buchhandlung Walther König, Cologne, 2003, p.165.
2 ‘In conversation: SUPERFLEX with Phong Bui’, The Brooklyn Rail, February 2010 issue.
3 SUPERFLEX, ‘500 words’, Artforum.
4 SUPERFLEX, Artforum.