FARE NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART
The Ottawa Citizen, Canada 10th November 2002
On the menu at an art gallery fast food joint: Hamburgers in the image
of icons who died too young.
It is called Burgerheaven, this shrine to our obsession with celebrity
and our seemingly insatiable appetite for fast food. The menu is not for
the queasy or squeamish - absolutely everything on it is fashioned to
reflect the images of dead celebrities.
It is a place where the Elvis Burger is King, of course, where the reverence
still accorded to the late Diana, Princess of Wales, is openly challenged
with the making of a blue blooded burger in her name, and where the vegetarian
choice is none other than the Beatles dearly departed John Lennon.
"We have a little advertising line that goes with that one,"
says Graham Ramsay, one of the two artist's from Scotland who flew into
Toronto last week to start transforming part of an art gallery into a
fully functioning fast-food joint with a gruesome edge. The line? "
All we are saying is give peas a chance."
The exhibit is more than an all-out gross out or a few flip lines. The
artists say it is a commentary on society and an exploration of the forbidden.
"The whole idea of eating flesh is fairly vulgar, isn't it?"
admits John Beagles, a London born artist now living in Glasgow. There
are a half dozen hamburgers on the menu, each conjured up in the image
of icons that died tragically young, with recipes based on their investigation
into cannibalism and 19th century shipwrecked mariners and early Australian
The artists discovered that the taste of flesh varies, based on influences
such as lifestyle, diet and body type. "People say human flesh tastes
like anything from ham, chicken and pork - even through to beef, "
Mr. Ramsay says. "We used those meats as the basis of the compounds."
So the recipes for each of the celebrity burgers are based on the backgrounds
of each of the icons. They have also thrown in some wild card flavours
for fun - a hint of strawberry to the bright blue Diana burger and a splash
of cola to the Elvis burger. "We call it the King Burger - it's the
biggest, the meatiest burger, the greasiest one," Mr. Ramsay explains.
The Kurt Cobain burger, meanwhile, is the leanest of all - no additives,
no artificial flavours. It is clearly a pared down grunge burger.
Rounding out the half dozen celebrities, each of whom died tragically
before their time: Marilyn Monroe (whose burger is made of all white meat
- chicken and pork) and Jimi Hendrix ( a psychedelic green beef burger
with chili spices - "it'll blow your mind"). The idea for the
project sprung from the artist's views on the domination of fast food
in our lives and the unrelenting fascination with celebrity.
"I guess it is the same situation in Canada but in the UK there is
a kind of interesting obsession with celebrities. It is getting completely
out of control. You get endless documentaries in TV about the lives of
celebrities, you get lots of expose books with British style tabloid reporting.
It dominates the news culture at the moment, " says Mr. Ramsay, who
is from Glasgow.
The burgers will be given away - while quantities last - at the YYZ Artist's
Outlet in Toronto during the exhibit's opening tomorrow night and again
on Saturday afternoon. The artists first staged this show last year in
the Netherlands and quickly exhausted their supply of 200 burgers. "We
completely sold out, Although people were a little nervous at first -
particularly with the Princess Diana Burger. Just because it's bright
blue, " Mr. Beagles says.