There's playing with your food, and there's Playing With Your Food. A kind of brilliant example of the latter is the artwork of Ben Campbell, a Texas artist who recently constructed a mummy entirely out of McDonald's food.
Campbell, who describes himself as “some guy in West Texas who makes artwork out of old food,” constructed the mummy to demonstrate the correlation between ancient Egypt mummification practices and modern society's obsession with immortality. At least that's what we think. Maybe keep reading.
We caught up with Campbell this morning, after seeing his project on Facebook and Kickstarter. (Pledge $10 and you get a mummified order of small McDonald's fries!) Because if you could ask a guy why he decided to build a mummy out of burgers and fries, wouldn't you?
As for why Campbell does stuff like this, he told us, “I'm generally known for not taking myself too seriously and pursuing odd projects. Because of that, the only thing I'm probably suited for in life is to be a celebrity artist.” If West Texas doesn't work out, he can always move here.
Squid Ink: Why, oh why did you do this? Something about ancient Egyptian practices?
Ben Campbell: It was largely to highlight a common pattern in human behavior. That we are often co-opted, often unknowingly, into serving some almost instinctive need for material immortality/power rather than embracing death and moving fluidly and realistically in a changing world. The results being material things we invested so much time and effort in outlast us and stand as a testament to our system of values. That, and I figured it would probably become popular on the Internet.
SI: What exactly is the mummy made out of? It's kind of hard to tell by the photos.
BC: It is made out of ground-up McDoubles, french fries, and a clear epoxy resin.
SI: Why McDonald's and not, say, In-N-Out?
BC: McDonald's is more iconic and has a rich lexicon of symbols, kind of like hieroglyphs in a way. It could really be about any fast food place. I personally doubt the food is much different from place to place.
SI: And you're wanting McDonald's to actually sue you, right? Um, why?
BC: I admit it would be interesting as it would provide me with a great platform and take my “career” in new directions. People love drama, but I'm fine with whatever happens. It's a win-win-win situation.
SI: Do you actually eat McDonald's food?
BC: No, I don't eat McDonald's food.
SI: Can you describe the mummy construction process?
BC: The food was dried out first, then run through a blender, mixed with resin, packed into rubber molds that I made beforehand, and finally the cast pieces were bonded together with more of the mixture and cleaned up.
SI: Where does a person keep this sort of thing — and what are you planning on doing with it exactly?
BC: Right now it's in storage covered with air hoses and other tools. For now I'm going to display it as part of a larger art show about McDonald's and Egypt. Eventually though, I'd like to find a buyer for it — like Ripley's, Charlie Sheen, or somebody who might enjoy it.
SI: You're from Texas, right? Don't you guys have convenient dehydrating winds or something?
BC: I am from Texas, and yes, we are known for our winds, sandstorms, and heat waves.
SI: How long do you predict your mummy will last?
BC: As long as it is kept dry, it should last for thousands of years, like a real mummy.
SI: I read that you have other McDonald's art projects — can you describe them?
BC: I have quite a few “pet hamburgers” that are displayed in clear plastic cases like what you would see in a store, a child mummy made of the same material as the adult, a series of paintings depicting Egyptian and McDonald's themes, and a 7-foot-tall sculpture that looks like a sarcophagus with a McDonald's theme.
SI: I hesitate to ask, but what's your next project?
BC: In the immediate future I'll be finishing up on a puppet show to be released on YouTube. After that I might take up trucking or go back to work as a janitor for Walmart if I run out of money. In the big picture I'd like to create geodesic domes for agriculture/habitation, gear my anonymous social-networking site to realistically make the world a better more interesting place, and become the governor of Texas.