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.
What a perversely sweet ending to this week’s banquet, Eric! And how appropriate for the season. I think its power lies in the first-person perspective you point out – we are complicit if not in the actual act, then in deriving pleasure from it. The bunnies’ long-suffering stare really got to me, especially when the eyes were flooded with the molten chocolate. So somehow the revelation of the hollow interior was oddly comforting—oh, they are not real bunnies after all, they are just shells!
I find this an interesting counterpart to the work of another Dutchman, Joost Elffers, whose Play with Your Food series is invariably perky. Do these two works together tell us anything about Dutch society and how children learn to relate to their food? May be worth investigating.
Not the bunny!
Thank you, Eric; I loved this post. I mean, I feel a little odd--kind of horrified, amused, and a little hungry--but sitting down with Chocolate Bunny makes for a strangely enjoyable experience too. I'm flashing back to childhood chocolate bunnies and trying to recall what I settled upon as the best way to consume them: heads off first thing, so you don't have to meet its candy eye for the rest of the day while you chip away at it? Or maybe I was more heartless, and relieved it first of ears and limbs and looked it in the face the whole time.
Either way, this post evokes a feeling of pleasant, even thoughtful destruction, and of someone sifting through various sources of bunny demise and trying out each one. You get the sense too that the bunny knows it all-- that melting eye locks with the viewer's more than once before falling into oblivion.
Oh Poor Bunny! How can I so
Oh Poor Bunny! How can I so heartlessly smile at your tortures? This amusing piece dramatizes how easily we see an image and then cannot overcome it as it succumbs to what it really is: in this case meltable chocolate.
I, like Michelle, was put in mind of the ethics (or would it be etiquette) of eating a chocolate bunny. Not feet first, please; the poor bunny would suffer too much to see itself disappearing into one's mouth. Kinder by far to bite the head off immediately, thus putting it out of its misery.
The image from this video that sticks with me most comes from the hair-dryer melt, as the flow of chocolate floods the bunny's eyes as if he is drowning in chocolate tears. And notice that the instruments of torture are common household items, making this clip both familiar and surreal.
Thank you, Eric, for this amusingly provocative post. And thanks to all for this week's enjoyable exchange!
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