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South London Gallery, London
16 January 1 March
Reviewed by: Emily Candela »
Make your own disaster!
These words appear in a friendly green font on a sign outside the South London Gallery. They advertise a gallery event where visitors can construct and film their own mini catastrophe, a kind of flood in a fish tank. It's inspired by the film Flooded McDonald's by Danish art collective Superflex, on show at SLG. As the title suggests, the artists flooded a McDonald's restaurant, or rather, a perfect replica of one built in a swimming pool. Flooded McDonald's chronicles the increasing chaos at The Golden Arches as water levels rise: soggy fries gather in eddies, a life-size fibreglass Ronald McDonald bobs impotently, and the electricity fizzles out.
The idea here isn't groundbreaking. Flooded McDonald's connects an icon of unhampered consumerism to global warming, pictured here unmistakeably as flooding. While film is a relatively new medium for Superflex, a commitment to socio-political issues runs throughout their practice. Most of the collective's projects such as a biogas plant for farmers in Tanzania or their internet TV channel Superchannel provide tools for others to further interpret their work. In the case of Flooded McDonald's, however, it's difficult for the viewer to go beyond the particular ecological and political statement. Even their previous film, 2008's Burning Car (also titled with deadpan descriptiveness), is not so limiting. Little context accompanies the image of a Mercedes in flames, leaving open multiple possibilities for meaning. The film's background that it was inspired by the 2007 social unrest in Paris only adds to these.
With Flooded McDonald's, Superflex communicates in a different way. its audience for the film (largely the bourgeois art world) no doubt already wish ruin upon the multinational fast-food chain. But this hardly renders the film powerless. Intentionally or not, by entreating this very audience to view their own fantasy and take visual pleasure in destruction, Flooded McDonald's directly confronts the complex relationship between aesthetics and the violent spectacle. This parallels the more obvious duality in the film between the enjoyment of consumption and its dangers. The 'Make your own disaster!' event mentioned earlier touches on this salient element of Superflex's work; that is, just how much this disaster is our own.
The film is conscious of its seductive qualities, playfully mimicking the style of Hollywood disaster movies. Flooded McDonald's ends with a beautiful slow-motion underwater shot of the restaurant in disarray. It's reminiscent of the final sequence in Michelangelo Antonioni's 1970 film Zabriskie Point, in which the explosion of a house also a scene of imagined destruction stretches over several minutes. In a pleasantly absurd twist on the disaster movie, however, Flooded McDonald's has no actors. They are replaced by objects cups, wrappers, Happy Meal toys that become animated by the flood. Here, chaos yields forms, and beauty and destruction mingle, granting depth to the film's political overtones. This is how Flooded McDonald's side-steps heavy-handed political recitation, sometimes a danger for artists who experiment with new relationships between art, politics and social reality.
South London Gallery »
65 Peckham Road, London SE5 8UH
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