Other than a pretty amazing TimesTalks with Grace Jones, one of the best things I saw on a recent visit to New York was 'Flooded McDonald's' 2008, by Danish art collective SUPERFLEX.
And it was accidental. We'd gone to see the Rodin bronzes at the Brooklyn Museum and after admiring the almost absurd weight of movement and the sheer beauty of their physicality, we thought about heading off for lunch on 5th Avenue – it had been a long four days – and just how much more art (ahem, cocktails) can you take?
Well, about another 20 minutes (of art) was the answer. When I sat on the bench in front of the massive screen the film was about 18 minutes in. And even at this point I wasn't sure I was going to stay and watch the whole thing from the start – tapas was calling...
But, I'm glad I did. Because it's amazing.
And very sad.
Gradually, the replica McDonald's restaurant is flooded. That's it. Just that, nothing else. But what happens as it slowly fills with water is mesmerising. Ronald topples over, bobbing about, surrounded by bloated, starchy, sodden fries. Drink cartons fall over and the filthy cola seeps out into the water. Big Macs float turd-like, as unflushable, inedible cowpats. The electrics spark and fizz, the lights go out, and eventually it's just a big mess as serviettes and straws and flaccid burger buns waft through the murky McDonald's sea...
If you've watched the BBC's epic Blue Planet and thought that the plastic-based pestilence choking our oceans and sea life is bad, then watching both the literal and the symbolic ugliness of 'Flooding McDonald's' is a horrible, powerless, and deeply saddening experience.
While you can't watch 'Flooded McDonald's' online, there is a pretty interesting short film about how they made it onYouTube.