Toyoko Ito (T): I've heard that your work is the highlight of the exhibition. Could you briefly tell me about it?

Noriko Tanaka (N): I can't say whether my work is going to be the highlight of the exhibition but the element of audience participation in our work would be of interest to many people. The use of food as the medium means that the work may be experienced through non-visual senses as well. My only regret is that I can't use fresh ingredients for this project because we might end up attracting the rats in the station.

For this installment, we will be putting up a tent in a corner of the station. Inside the tent, the visitors will be asked to recount their happy stories in exchange for pieces of sweets. Both the stories as well as the sweets should be considered as integral parts of the work as a whole.

T: It seems the work is part of your ongoing project, Happy Hour. Tell me about the project.


E: Happy Hour project is a collaboration between Mika Funaki and I. It will also be the first project to be managed by "courier", an art event organiser service set up by Miwa Kojima and myself. The aim of the project is to collect happy stories from the members of the audience in the tent. The method of collecting these stories as well as the installation will be modified each time to suit the venue. Happy Hour is essentially a synthesis of Mika's happy stories and my edible sculptures.

The first installment of Happy Hour took place in Rotterdam where the audience was invited for tea. While they were sipping tea, they were asked to tell us happy stories as part of an interview. The second Happy Hour took place at a bar, Hat on Wall in London. It was a one night event where the audience got drinks at the bar and in exchange they were given beer mats. The audience was asked to write down their happy stories on the back of the beer mats. They could then go to the tent and exchange the beer mats for cakes. The installation at Minus One is a continuation of the event from Hat on Wall. If the event at the bar was the A side of a single, this will be the B side.

T: This is the first time I have seen a sculpture that can be consumed in a gallery. What led you to use food for your art work?

N: Before I started working with food, I made a series of work called Private Landscapes. For some reason, the landscapes in my work always ended up with a creamy smooth surface reminiscent of icing on a cake. That inspired me to use real food as the medium for my work. As a result, I sculpted a mountain using Tiramisu* and it became the first work in my current series.

* Italian cheese cake/pudding


 Noriko Tanaka + Mika Funaki, Happy Hour Project in Rotterdam 2003, photo: courier ©
T: What does food mean to you?

N: I'm tempted to say that the food is just another medium for artwork. But if the truth be told, it means more to me than that. On one hand, there are plenty of visually beautiful dishes where the various ingredients serve the function of a medium. But with culinary creations, the dish must taste good as well as just looking beautiful. Similarly with my edible sculptures, I feel the need to ensure that they taste good as well.
T: You've used cakes a few times before. Why cakes?

N: It may be a very subjective point of view but I feel that cakes are imbued with exoticism and nostalgia. This duality between the two opposites is what makes cakes alluring as a subject for my work.
T: What kind of reactions have you received from the visitors?

N: I've noticed that the first person is always a bit nervous. They remind me of the phrase, "to cut the cake". It's a symbolic act for both the participant as well as myself. Possibly because my cakes are always unusually big, it may also be appealing to the sweet toothed members of the audience. The sight of the visitors taking the plunge and cutting large bold portions from the cake gives me a warm feeling of satisfaction.


T: It can be interpreted that you use your edible sculptures to interact with the audience. What would you say to such an interpretation?

N: Interaction between the work and the audience is very important for me. Similarly, the relationship between the artist and the audience is also important. I like installations that balance the delicate relationships between the work, the audience and the artist.

With this interaction in mind, I think my presence on-site while the food is being consumed allows me to explore the ways in which the gap between the work, the audience and the artist may be bridged.

T: Your sculpture must look very different at the end of the event. How do you feel about seeing it consumed?

N: There's a sense of aesthetic beauty in the appearance of the work after it's been consumed. Although there's sadness at the fact that it's like the remains of a banquet, it also fills me with a sense of satisfaction.


 Noriko Tanaka + Mika Funaki, Happy Hour Project in Rotterdam 2003, photo: courier ©
T: What does artistic activity mean to you?

N: To me, it is being in a state of constant progress even when things appear to be at a standstill.
T: Tell me about the themes and the areas you are currently interested in.

N: There're many little things all around but the one that I'm interested in at the moment is the interview process. As you know, I've been interviewing people for the Happy Hour project and today I'm being interviewed myself.

I find the differing and unusual perspective on things that one gains at interviews pleasantly rewarding. It might be something that I might explore as a creative tool for my own work.


T: Tell me about your future plans.

N: In conjunction with "courier", I'm working on a project to take Happy Hour to Tokyo. In addition, I'm working as a chef at a south London cafe once a month where I also arrange events. It seems as though I'll be busy doing this food series for the foreseeable future.
This interview was translated from a Japanese interview with the help of Atsuhide Ito.

Noriko Tanaka
Born in Okayama, Japan in 1972
Tanaka graduated from Experimental Design course at the Nagoya University of Arts in 1995. In 1997, she received an MFA in sculpture from Slade School, University College London. After completion of an Associate Research course at the Chelsea College of Art and Design, she launched the art organisation "courier" in 2002. Her current projects include an interactive collaborative work with the group, using food as the medium and encouraging audience participation. She lives and works in London.

For more information about her work, visit the web site below:


Aldwych Underground Station
The Strand
London WC2B

Opening Hours
Private View
30 January 2004, 18:00 - 20:00

Exhibition: Minus One
28 & 29 January 2004, 14:00 - 20:00
30 January 2004, 14:00 - 18:00
Admission: free

Underground Party
31 January 2004, 19:30 - till late
By invitation only, Admission charge: 10GBP
All proceeds will go to WellChild to raise funds for sick children.
For more information visit

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