Morrissey would hate this exhibit.
All images by David Meulenbeld
There’s something about McDonald’s. It’s good and bad at the same time. When I enter the oddly quiet franchise in a Dutch industrial zone, 10 bags of burgers are waiting in the spot where you would normally encounter someone preparing the french fries. Artist Casper Braat kindly says, “I’m here to pick up my thousand hamburgers.” He's not planning on eating them, but instead will use them for an exhibit.
The employee behind the counter tells us that they already made 300 hamburgers and offers us a McMuffin. We wait until the other 700 are ready. At this point, the kitchen has already been working in two lines for 30 minutes—which means two grillers, two burger builders and two wrappers—at maximum capacity. Technically, the kitchen of McDonald’s Breukelen can make 600 hamburgers an hour.
Ever since Braat started on his McDonald’s projects while he was a student at Gerrit Rietveld Academie he’s been obsessed with the corporation. “I really do think about McDonald’s multiple times a day,” he tells The Creators Project. He tells us about the transformation of the company, it’s not just red and yellow anymore, it’s green now. The stools, that are normally positioned in a very uncomfortable way, have been redesigned. Even though most furniture is mass-produced, some McDonald’s restaurants actually own real Eames and Jacobsen chairs. “Too bad,” says Braat. He thought the old style had its charm.
I get his obsession. The drawers, buttons, shakers and everything else in a kitchen of McDonald’s is just so efficient and made in a way that it’s virtually impossible to do anything wrong.
“A lot of people think of McDonald’s as something disgusting,” says Braat. “But in some way, it does seems noble that they’re making cheap food that anyone can buy. I would like to make people think about the fact that somehow you can get so much with so little money.” Obviously, this does not go by without suffering. Overconsumption, bio-industrial and environmental issues; people are aware of them. “It’s almost devilish to take part in it, when you know about these things,” Braat admits. He uses his hamburger art piece to express his love–hate relationship with McDonald’s in a passive aggressive manner. Besides, as an artist it’s fascinating to explore whether there’s a possibility in outsourcing art to the chain of fast food.
So we’re unbagging the hamburgers at a cultural centre in Almere. Braat starts by organizing them into a giant rectangle. “Somehow this is an oath to the Pindakaasvloer,” he tells us. Wim T. Schippers' famous peanut butter artwork questions the definition of art and Braat thinks the public will criticize his work for the same reason. “If this is considered art, then I can be an artist too,” he imitates.
McDonald’s is aware of Braat turning their burgers into art, and wasn't all too happy with it. After informing McDonald’s Amsterdam North, he got a call from the head office. They told him, specifically, “this is not supposed to happen.” Subsequently Braat called another McDonald’s restaurant and told them that he was throwing a party. McDonald’s is aware that the art piece happened and are not against it anymore. They even offered to recycle the hamburgers when the exhibition ends, but Braat is not planning on throwing the hamburgers away.
People may call his artwork wasteful, especially because animals died for it, but Braat tells The Creators Project, “It’s not food anymore, it’s art.” Everybody has probably experienced up-close what you can buy at McDonald's for only one Euro, but seeing it altogether that shows the weirdness of it all. “It's food for your mind.”
For more on Casper Braat, see his website.
This article originally appeared on The Creators Project Netherlands.