BURGERHEAVEN'S FARE NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART
David Stonehouse
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 settlers.
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.