While the trailblazing exhibition Radical Women is a must see at L.A.’s Hammer Museum (and will be the subject of a later post), concurrently on view and of contemporary relevance is the 2009 film Flooded McDonald’s, situated in a small plaza gallery. The 21-minute film was made by the artist collective SUPERFLEX, which was founded in Copenhagen in 1993, but is now based in Denmark, Sweden, and Brazil. The group’s mission is to explore systems of power, global capitalism and trade, community relations, and more. I first became aware of the collective through their piece CopyLight/Factory (2008) in the Museum of Modern Art’s Print/Out exhibition of 2012. Part of the group’s ongoing “Supercopy Series,” it consisted of computer and other workstations set up within the MoMA galleries in which museum visitors could refabricate (through the use of digital images) iconic trademarked lamp designs, offering a commentary on copyright.
For Flooded McDonald’s, the group fabricated a scale replica of a McDonald’s fast-food restaurant perfect in every detail–from the counters, displays, and tables, to the Happy Meal boxes and toys, to the abandoned trays of food and drink, to the Employee of the Month plaque on the wall. As promised by the title, water slips in under a door in the unpeopled space and gradually rises. Although the viewer knows what is coming, the action is riveting and, initially, amusing. The forever smiling and waving Ronald McDonald, lifted by the rising waters, topples and is set afloat. Cups and fries engage in a graceful underwater ballet. A “Caution Slippery When Wet” floor sign drifts by.
The ever-rising waters grow increasingly dark, murky, and polluted. Drowned chairs become surrogates for the people they once held. Climate change, environmental disasters, the recent Houston floods, and the continuing horrors of the Caribbean hurricanes, at the back of the viewer’s mind from the beginning of the piece, come to the fore. The entertainment value offered by the destruction of a capitalist icon gives way to an acute awareness of present day realities. Flooded McDonald’s was prescient indeed.
Spoiler alert: The piece was filmed in a swimming pool in Bangkok.