The internationally un-known artist, Banksy, has expanded his portfolio with two recent food-related exhibits in New York City. The first takes aim at McDonald’s, with a life-size statue of Ronald McDonald. The exhibit includes a young boy, polishing McDonald’s oversized clown shoes, and will be moved to a new McDonald’s restaurant daily.
An audio recording on Banksy’s site explains that Ronald is one of the most well known figures of this generation, and, “arguably the most sculpted figure in history after Christ.” Banksy’s rendition of Rotten Ronnie is more than meets the eye, having been created with the help of two others, and showing a subtle likeness to the Greek god Hermes.
The result is a critique of the heavy labour required to sustain the polished image of a mega-corporation. Is Ronald’s statuesque pose indicative of how corporations have become the historical figures of our era? Does this hero have feet of clay and a massively large footprint to boot? But, take a closer look and you may notice something familiar about this clown.
This isn’t Banksy’s first kick at McDonald’s, or the food industry. The artist has completed multiple exhibits looking at fast food, processed food and food culture in general (Google “McNuggets by Banksy” for a rather disturbing video example).
In fact, this month, Banksy promises to add a new piece of art to New York City every day and another of the already unveiled exhibits, entitled Sirens of the Lambs, strikes a chord with the meat packing industry. Banksy uses the dramatic juxtaposition of children’s toys and a slaughterhouse truck, coupled with their rather irritating and unnerving calls, here:
If you cannot view the embedded video, click here.
There’s no doubt Banksy’s work elicits a thought provoking, and often powerful reaction in its viewer. You merely have to Google the artist’s “stage-name” to see the attention his “Better Out Than In” art receives. Even so, it’s hard to know how much art like this merely goes viral for its shock value, without the individual self-reflection the artist likely hopes to inspire. And, depending what side of the fence you’re on, it’s also pretty easy to get fired up about it.
The influence of art on individual and group behaviour is a topic we seldom address in agriculture (though the onset of parody music videos, like those by the Peterson Farm Bros are perhaps a step in that direction). What do you think? Does art have the power to change perception and, ultimately, behaviour? Should the McDonald’s franchise and/or meat producers be concerned by Banksy? Or will the message be lost in a wave of Instagram shots, likes, shares and retweets?
Top image from Banksy’s online gallery, Better Out Than In.