INTERVIEW: PRUE STENT & HONEY LONG
Creating a Modern Day Mythology
Who would not want to spend a day with Australian artists Prue Stent and Honey Long? They are like the main protagonists in a fairytale of their own making. Their artistic journey seems like a wild never ending dress-up party. In this duo-interview, Prue and Honey talk about how they once upon a time first met, about playfulness and success, and about past, present and what’s next …
Prue and Honey, where were you born and where do you live now?
Honey: I was born in Sydney and am still based here.
Prue: I was born in Sydney but for the last six years I have been based in Melbourne. I still go back to Sydney enough to call it my home though.
Are Prue Stent and Honey Long your real names? I mean, they sound so good, they seem too good to be true ...
Honey: Ha ha, yes they are!
Prue: Yeah, we get that a lot. They seem like really normal names to us but I can see how the combination is kind of funny.
It seems you’ve known each other for quite a while. How did you first meet?
Honey: We were assigned seats next to each other in Year 8 math class and bonded over 'doodling' and Japanese stationary.
Prue: I remember seeing Honey in Year 7 and thinking she was the coolest person I had ever seen. I was super excited when I got to sit next to her in math class for a whole semester. We’ve been pretty inseparable ever since.
When and how did photography, theater and performance art first come into play?
Honey: Our practice evolved very naturally out of our friendship and shared appreciations. I feel like our natural inclinations fit really well together. Prue has always loved photography and I have always been more inclined towards performance and making things with my hands. As our practice has developed those things have merged and mingled between us and our roles have become increasingly blurred.
How does your working together work? Is there a clear division of tasks? Like: Prue the costumes, Honey the editing? Or you do everything together and things just happen as you go along?
Prue: Our practice together has been in a constant state of flux with our roles continually shifting as we experiment with different mediums and ideas. I guess in a typical situation I am the photographer. However, even this is not fixed.
Seeing your work, before anything else the word ‘fun’ comes to mind. It must be a lot of fun creating these Prue & Honey fantasy-girl-worlds. You laugh a lot?
Honey: Ha ha, yes!
Prue: Yeah, we have a lot of fun working together. I think that’s what has made our practice so sustainable.
Success has come fast and furious. Are you afraid it will produce pressure and may spoil the fun and playfulness?
Honey: The recognition we have received has been really amazing and encouraging, but our practice together has a lot of room to grow and develop. So any opportunities that challenge us to do that, although sometimes stressful, are exciting. I think the nature of our practice being what it is, there isn't much danger of losing its playfulness anytime soon.
Prue: I think that the pressure of entering unknown territories is really important for any artist to grow and develop. There is always so much to learn when pushed out of your comfort zone. Of course certain situations are stressful but that doesn't mean they can’t be fun too.
I didn’t mean to say your work is only fun. I’m not always sure what to think of it, which is a good thing. It’s intriguing and seems an endless journey of re-discovering, re-imagining and re-positioning the female body. Without over-contextualizing, how would you describe your artistic journey?
Honey: That sums it up pretty well! I think our work springs from a spontaneous place, which carries with it both a playfulness as well as some darker subconscious processes. Primarily our work is visually driven but I think we always aim to make images that trigger sensations and feelings and involve multiple senses. Our practice is very much based on feeling and impulse rather than being overly conceptual.
What’s with pink?
Honey: Pink has been super helpful in creating an ongoing theme in our work, which has to do with digesting cultural phenomena associated with being a woman and pooing it out the other end in a way. It is also interesting working with a contested color and letting people generate their own meanings.
Prue: The color pink is attractive both symbolically and visually. We find a lot of its associations align with what we are interested in exploring. Often it isn’t a conscious decision but just a color we are continually drawn to and aren't going to purposefully deny.
You generally model yourself, I presume, and with friends. Does that make your work self-portraits to some extent?
Honey: Maybe in a way. We are drawn to working with a variety of different bodies, but in no way are we trying to speak for some universal feminine experience. Our work is very much rooted in our own thoughts and feelings and most of the time using ourselves or our close friends is the easiest way to express that.
Prue: I wouldn't say they are self-portraits as we usually make a conscious decision to disguise personal identity. I would say that instead we are using the body as a prop or a tool to communicate abstract ideas or feelings.
Instagram played a big role in your rise to success. What’s the good, the bad and the ugly of Instagram?
Honey: As an artist I think it's an amazing platform to share your practice, but you definitely can't take it too seriously or let it shape the kind of work you make.
Prue: I think it can be an excellent platform for sharing your work, finding work and meeting other artists. However, it’s important that you don’t depend on it for validating your work and worth as an artist. It’s an easy trap to fall into.
Over the last couple of years, we have been really focused on bringing our work offline and into tangible spaces, which has been rewarding.
Girls, imagine you have to live together on an idyllic tropical island for a year. Food and water in abundance. What five things would you bring?
Honey: My sewing machine, my speakers, a kombucha scoby, a machete and a journal.
Prue: My goggles, camera, earplugs, pillow and canoe incase Honey drives me crazy.
What will the island look like after a year?
Honey: Not sure, but we will be nude and leathery.
Prue: Yeah, what Honey said.
What’s next for Prue & Honey?
Prue: We have a number of exciting upcoming projects including a video clip, an exhibition and a residency. I guess the overall aim is to keep producing personal work and investigating new ideas and people to work with.
INTERVIEWED BY PETER SPEETJENS