Guilty As Charged

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The Austrian performance artists Sonja Stummerer and Martin Hablesreiter, a.k.a. Honey and Bunny, want to make us reëxamine the culinary mores that we take for granted. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY SONJA STUMMERER AND MARTIN HABLESREITER

I have been on the road for most of the last six weeks and have been consumer of the posts on this site, rather than contributor, for the entire stretch since we got distracted by a hurricane. That’s okay. Other contributors have carried the ball forward well, and before I forget I want to share one recent item I read elsewhere that seems a fitting counterpoint to Jocelyn’s most recent post.

That topic has a kind of ick factor I cannot articulate while at the same time is clearly a topic we are going to need to deal with more and more. I am certainly guilty of avoiding the topic, and must overcome the ick thing. Clearly linked to the lab/food topic is the issue of food waste, which we address on a regular basis here.

We need more diversity in our approach to these tough topics to avoid the feeling of being overwhelmed; antidotes to the ick/tough factor to make the topic more palatable, so to speak. We are so serious in our earnestness that we no doubt add to the weight of the topic, and I speak guilty as charged on that too. It may be that “playful” is an appropriate alternate approach from time to time, as this item suggests:

THE WASTEFULNESS OF MODERN DINING, AS PERFORMANCE ART

Many of us reflect, at least occasionally, on how our gastronomic habits affect the health of the planet. We regret that our takeout dinners come in a Styrofoam container inside a paper bag inside a plastic bag, with white plastic utensils in their very own plastic sheaths. We feel guilty when we order too much food at a restaurant and resign half an entrée to be scraped into the trash. But the pull of convention is most often stronger than these feelings. We eat in the manner we’ve grown accustomed to eating.

The sly and playful Austrian performance artists Sonja Stummerer and Martin Hablesreiter want to make us reëxamine the culinary mores that we take for granted. A husband-and-wife team who began their careers as architects, the duo are pioneers in the emerging field of “food design,” which spans everything from planning how food is produced in factories to the sociological consideration of manners and tastes. They have released three books and a documentary about industrial food design and how culture shapes our aesthetic expectations of the things we eat. But, in recent years, they’ve become best known for their work on the environmental impact of food, a topic they tackle through oblique and colorful performances. Under the sobriquet Honey and Bunny, they mount fanciful banquets for museumgoers that they emcee in clown makeup, and stage photos and videos starring themselves as diners in an odd parallel universe governed by an alien etiquette.

One recent video, for instance, shows a time-honored male-bonding ritual gone slightly off-kilter: Hablesreiter and another actor glug beers as they tend a grill, but a lonely bunch of carrots is all that sizzles on the coals. In another video, released in March, Stummerer and Hablesreiter sit at a café table wound in so many layers of Saran Wrap that the food underneath looks suspended in a spider’s web; Honey and Bunny themselves are similarly mummified, sporting only their underwear beneath their transparent binding. They snip casually at the plastic with silver scissors until they reach their plates and forks and start to eat. At live events, Stummerer and Hablesreiter are ruder to their guests than any snobbish maître d’. They feed denizens of the art world food off their bodies and squirt red wine into the diners’ mouths from medical syringes…

Read the whole post here.

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