Being Sustainable

The noble efforts of honey & bunny

September 2015
Austrian designers Sonja Stummerer and Martin Hablesreiter feel that people should talk about food as an aspect of culture, seeing it as the most important matter of all and as a design product. In realising that some of history’s most game-changing events owe their roots to food, they also understand that dozens of habits, norms, cultural and social rituals in our everyday lives do, as well. Their interdisciplinary studio, honey & bunny productions, develops projects, books, films, and performances centred on this very specific subject. The duo contends that food is a design discipline that doesn’t receive its due as a cultural phenomenon because it is seriously underestimated. And yet, they insist, it’s possibly our most fundamental of needs.
When speaking of food design, Sonja Stummerer and Martin Hablesreiter do not mean product de-sign. What the couple – also known as honey & bunny – is interested in, is the political, cultural, social, and ecologic dimension of food design.
Both Stummerer and Hablesreiter are architects. They worked for Hans Hollein in Vienna and then at Arata Isozaki & Associates in Tokyo. In 2005, they wrote their first book about food design. “It was more of a hobby”, Martin Hablesreiter informs. “We were surprised by the success it had.” This was the beginning of their food design work; from that moment onwards, they became more and more involved in the subject and learned to understand its extent. “In the first years, we did a lot of research: we wrote other books and realised documentaries. Later we went back to art. We studied at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, and started doing performances connecting food, the act of eating, and art.”
[caption id="attachment_9750" align="alignnone" width="1024"] images courtesy of Martin Hablesreiter / Sonja Stummerer / Ulrike Köb / Daisuke Akita[/caption]
Stummerer and Hablesreiter’s interest is mainly focused on two topics: one is how human beings relate to food, which largely derives from cultural issues; the other is sustainability. The former is the subject of a performance at galerie JOSEPH in Paris at the beginning of September, in which Stummerer and Hablesreiter dress up in costumes that indicate the ideals of the body in today’s society: big muscles for him, big breasts and backside for her. They fill-up these parts of the body with food and then invite the public to eat them up. “The relationship with the public is fundamental to us”, Hablesreiter explains. “We want to engage the audience in a conversation, and eating is perfect for this; we add a small dose of provocation in order to enhance the dialogue.”
[caption id="attachment_9754" align="alignnone" width="620"]From the book EAT DESIGN / While some fashion articles and accessories, like sunglasses and baseball caps, are classified as inappropriate at the table, others are considered very suitable. From the book EAT DESIGN / While some fashion articles and accessories, like sunglasses and baseball caps, are classified as inappropriate at the table, others are considered very suitable.[/caption]
The topic of sustainability is at the centre of an-other upcoming project by honey & bunny, which takes place in Milan during Resonances, a festival organised by the European Commission. “We will set up a supermarket in which the products will not be ordered in the usual way”, Hablesreiter informs, “but instead, according to their level of sustainability. For example, according to how much water it takes to produce them, or to how many kilometres they have travelled to get there. We will collaborate with three independent scientists who will write texts about this and engage the public in a literary dialogue."
[caption id="attachment_9654" align="alignnone" width="692"]Sustainable Fooddesign project / You are what you eat Sustainable Fooddesign project / You are what you eat[/caption]
he two topics: sustainability and the human relationship with food, are also interconnected. In Liège, honey & bunny are taking part in the Reciprocity Triennale, themed The Taste of Change, with a re-search project aimed at showing how our culture of-ten hinders sustainability. “We know that we should live in a sustainable way”, Hablesreiter explains, “but cultural issues often prevent us from doing so. For instance, when we eat at restaurants, the portions are often too large, above all in Germany and Austria. If someone does not finish their portion, nobody else will suggest eating it, because it’s embarrassing. Other obstacles to a sustainable living come from health and from religion. 30% of all beef is thrown away because customers do not want it – and I am not speaking of the entrails.” Together with architect Alexander Diem, Stummerer and Hablesreiter are working on a solution to this wastefulness: an app called fleischTEILE (parts of meat) allows consumers to get together to buy a whole cow. “This is not something new”, Hablesreiter remarks, “but we are introducing the app to manage the meat online and to enable ordering the various parts directly from the farmer, so that consumers don’t have any storage problems. It gives birth to a ‘semi-religious community’, a group of people believing in the same principle. They will tend to accomplish their aim be-cause they have set it themselves.”
And what exactly is the role of design in this con-text? “Sustainability and industrial design do not fit together”, Hablesreiter claims. “We have to think beyond design history, beyond the usual design principles, and beyond the object, which is a product of capitalism. We do not yet have the solution. We have to take a step back and think about which cultural parameters are connected to sustainability.”
[caption id="attachment_9758" align="alignnone" width="1024"]Sustainable Fooddesign project / Value of nutrition / While a high cultural value is attributed to meat, vegetables live a shadowy existence as a side dish without value and taste. Sustainable Fooddesign project / Value of nutrition / While a high cultural value
is attributed to meat, vegetables live a shadowy existence as a side dish without value and taste.[/caption]
EAT YOU (performance), at galerie JOSEPH, Paris on 05 September 2015 (20:00). galerie-joseph.net
Reciprocity Triennale / THE TASTE OF CHANGE (group expo), at Musée de la Vie wallonne, Liège, Belgium 01 October – 01 November 2015. reciprocityliege.be
ces festival / food | SUSTAINABLE | design (performance), at Superstudio Piu’, Milan 13+14 October 2015 (21:00). ec.europa.eu
eat | SHARE | art (performance), at Brockenhaus Dübendorf, Zürich 29 October 2015. (19:00). thatsattitude.com