As with Proust’s madeleine, food plucks from us responses we can’t foresee.
In Chocolate Bunny, the first video by Dutch artists Lernert & Sander, we enter a cheerful world of chocolate and monochrome—Easter egg purple, Pepto-Bismol pink, the blue of boys—where we watch the same bunny melt three times under the heat of three domestic appliances, all to a soothing, somewhat disconcerting lullaby. It’s strange, a mix of cheeky still life, grotesquery, and anthropomorphic camp. Chocolate Bunny mesmerizes me, unnerves me, makes me smile. Watching it, I recall as a child heaping wasteful amounts of sugar into my cereal bowl, until the white granules rose above the whiter milk in a sparkling pyramid and my father would grumble, “Cut it out.”
Yet unlike Proust’s Madeleine, Chocolate Bunny doesn’t conjure childhood memories so much as evoke a childhood mentality. The chocolate becomes animate, as in a children’s story or Disney film, but sinisterly so, with an almost pre-moral abandon. The chocolate also becomes an oozy, gooey substance, a thing in itself. It isn’t—or isn’t just—food. It’s freed from its status as a sweet and reopened to the playfulness of childhood, in which certain conventions (food is for eating, not tormenting) don’t obtain. As play, Chocolate Bunny courts discovery and delight without concern for convention (save the artistic) and so brings with it the destruction and discomfort those conventions are meant to prevent. It disturbs us with childlike glee.
Moreover, it invites us to play along. Its camera angles, its close-ups, its sing-a-long soundtrack, they all combine to create a first-person perspective, in which it feels as though we’re the bunny melters. Chocolate Bunny asks us to be absorbed, beguiled, and if we go with it, we find ourselves not at tea with Proust, but down Alice’s rabbit hole, where food doesn’t behave as food should and neither do we.