By Rachel Corbett
Updated September 15, 2014
Credit: © Margaret Gibbons

Is America’s current obsession with technology related to the sugary offerings of the childhood breakfast table? According to artist Rachel Lee Hovnanian, the answer is yes. “The image of Tony the Tiger, the Trix Rabbit and Lucky the Leprechaun entertained generations of children on Saturday mornings,” she says, In addition to entertaining kids, those characters convinced mothers that the dyed, genetically modified corn product we call cereal was “‘grrrreat!’ to feed their families.”

But even though nutritionists have tried to educate consumers on how these sugary foods contribute to childhood obesity, Hovnanian thinks our need for instant gratification is stronger than ever and we are simply changing what we use to satiate it. Instead of puffed corn we are wrapping our indulgence in the colorful packaging of Instagram and Twitter. “Perhaps like the sugar rush we received from cereal, we are all feeling a similar sensation when using social media,” Hovnanian says.

To illustrate her point, the artist is opening a pop-up cereal bar at 452 West Broadway in Soho from September 18 to 21. At Hovnanian’s installation, titled “Instant Gratification,” visitors enter through a giant cereal-box facade and receive free Lucky Charms, Frosted Flakes and Wheaties to enjoy at tables and benches, and at a second-floor lounge that will be plushily outfitted with teddy bears. The pop-up will include free Wi-Fi and charging stations, along with a private selfie room where guests can visualize themselves as “Wheaties Champions.”

“Millions of people start each day by plugging in and devouring their favorite quick-to-eat cereal,” Hovnanian says. “I know I do. It seems to me that we are living a synthetic life, with fake sugary food, fake friends on the Internet. We are surrounded by virtual reality on our devices, which appears very real to many of us.”

The pop-up shop is itself a playful package housing a complex question at its center: Will the cult of convenience, with its smartphones and fast foods, dictate the minds and bodies of the future? “Who knows?” Hovnanian says. “But maybe it is time to pause and think about it.”