Dialogue

Dialogue 19 | honey & bunny eat art

'It took us year to understand, that food (and eating) is the most cultural “thing” (object and action) human beings have. Every kind of culture is somehow related to food. On the other hand, from the very beginning, we were very much interested in daily objects and actions.'

Sonja and Martin. Photo credit: honey & bunny, Daisuke Akita 

honey & bunny is a transdisciplinary studio collective. Founded in 2003 by the architects Dr. Sonja Stummerer and Martin Hablesreiter, honey & bunny’s work is situated at the intersection of research and design. Science and art are united by a thirst for knowledge and the urge to make change. They wish to identify problems, to single them out and to address them. To do so, they work at the interface between various art forms and the intersection of theory, science and public participation. Research and performance are central to their processes of both understanding and acting. They realize their interpretations in many formats, such as performatively, publicly, digitally, while always remaining as political as possible.


Interviewer: Klaudia Chzhu

Hello, honey & bunny! The first question will be why honey & bunny? What does it mean? 

That’s actually very boring. On one hand, my name: Hablesreiter is even for Austrians really difficult to pronounce. On the other hand: it was a (stupid) joke. We lived and worked in Japan around 2000. During these days many offices for architecture popped up with really strange names. We tried to make fun of that and told people, that we are honey & bunny. We were young… But people remembered honey & bunny very well. Sonja does not like it at all. For me it is not important. Goethe said: “Namen sind Schall und Rauch!” [Names are sound and smoke]. It’s more important what we do, I guess.

016 | sustainable-fooddesign. Photo credit: honey & bunny, Daisuke Akita

Well, your story is really funny! Could you tell us more about your background? How you came to the honey & bunny project? 

We have studied architecture in Vienna (Masterclass Hans Hollein), Barcelona and London. Then we moved to Japan to work for Isozaki Arata. Our plan was to get star architects. Well. In London, Sonja came up with the idea to do research on food design. It was meant to be an essay for her studies at the AA. We found out, that there was not a single publication about food design worldwide. So we started to do a bigger recherche. It was so interesting, but we did not know at all, what we have touched. It took us year to understand, that food (and eating) is the most cultural “thing” (object and action) human beings have. Every kind of culture is somehow related to food. On the other hand, from the very beginning, we were very much interested in daily objects and actions. For us it’s so boring and posh to design normal chairs or study classical art history. That s just elitist. We want to understand the culture of “normal” people and deal with it. If we as human beings want to do the sustainable turn for example we need to change the daily culture. Therefore we need to understand what and how we eat or clean or survive in a normal household. Our most preferable works are, when we perform in a supermarket or when we go from house to house and ask if we could clean a room

You use edible material when creating art pieces. What does motivate you to utilize it? What is the message behind your work?

Food tells us a lot about culture and politics. Everybody express him or herself when she or he consumes food. That’s pretty interesting. On the other hand, it’s cool to work with a material, which does not last for a longer period. Our art is not eternal at all. Food is political. Food is cultural. Food is history. Food touches absolutely everybody. Food is super emotional. Everybody gets involved in a way. Nobody could turn around and say: Boring. Food provokes interaction immediately. No material is similar. Our main goal is creating narratives for a sustainable turn / a sustainable world. Food is a very good material to try that.

Eating is a profoundly political act. With every bite we change the world, environmentally,
economically and socially.

From ‘Playing with your food’ by Sonja Stummerer and Martin Hablesreiter, Honey & Bunny

So, you work with performances and installations. Could you share with us what is your unique way to engage the audience in your art? What is the role of the recipient in your art? 

It depends on the location – the people who would see or experience it. First of all: Food is like a magnet for humans: if people see or smell food, they change their ways and follow the path of food. They get thrilled in a way. You could use food to attract. Then we provoke people with deconstruction. We change the contexts of objects we use. That’s the easy part. If you use – for instance – medical instruments at an eat art installation, you irritate people. That’s very strange. Both elements are used for health, but you would never combine. Human beings are very restricted by cultural rules. We are interested in that. Performances are different. It would take pages to explain. But as I have said already – if you let people eat, they are willing to interact. You could let them do something, they would never do under normal circumstances. That makes them free. That creates communities. That opens their mind. We want to let our guests cross borders together to finally think in a different way about hierarchy or patriarchy or sustainability. It works very well. The recipient plays a major role all the time. Everything is a bit flexible, a bit improvised (that’s the difficult part for trained architects). Everything is different from city to city, from culture to culture.

Photo credit: honey & bunny, Ulrike Köb

eat | POLITICS | art

Location: Angewandten Innovation Laboratory; www.ailab.at

Date: 19th and 26th April  2016

Fotos: Ulrike Köb / www.koeb.at  & AIL

Scientists: Gabriele Sorgo, Sandra Karner, Christian Rammel, Benedikt Haerlin, Grazziano

Ghedina

The way you think about people’s engaging in your art is amazing! One of your performances entitled ‘Eat Rules Design’ (2015), could you tell us more about it? 

That’s not a performance. It was video for the V&A in London. They forced us to make videos in the museum. So cool. We have tried to show, how important the rules of daily culture are. On the other hand, we have tried to create suggestions for a sustainable future. Therefore we need humor. It’s absolutely necessary to use irony for serious issues.

Photo credits: honey & bunny

food | RULES | design

Location: Victoria & Albert Museum London

Type: Participation for the exhibition: Food: Bigger than the plate/ Video Installation

Date: 2019

Curators: Catherine Flood, May Rosenthal Sloan

Videos: Sebastian Arlamovsky

How could you describe your art-practice in a word? 

Strange

Could you share with us your current or planned projects? 

Together with scientists from 15 different disciplines we work on an arts and science project about sustainable food culture. The scientists work at the Joint Research Center of the European Commission. The goal is to write about the importance of culture for the sustainable turn and to create ca 100 new iconic photographs, representing a sustainable narrative. We would like to publish another illustrated book and use all the knowledge we create during the process for new installations and performances.

Photo credit: honey & bunny, Ulrike Köb

Table manners

Location: Gwangju/ South Korea 

Type: Participation at the Biennale Gwangu

Curator: Crystal Bennes/ www.crystalbennes.com

Date: 2011

Your story is truly exciting, funny and honest! Thanks again for letting us to interview you, Martin and Sonja!

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