On Mouths

Mouths are weird. They’re not quite like other parts of our body, most of which are ‘objects’ in themselves, even though they are sometimes reducible to smaller parts. A hand has fingers, a palm, and so forth, but is also what it is: a hand. A mouth has lips, teeth, gums, a tongue, but it is nothing in itself. A mouth is an emptiness.

Michael Pacher, Saint Wolfgang and the Devil (detail) from the Fathers of the Church altarpiece, c. 1471-75, oil on panel. Alte Pinakothek, Munich [source]

Bear with me here. See, a hand, you can stick a hand on other things and it will still be a hand. If you had a hand on the top of your head, high-fiving would be super easy. The same applies to a mouth. If I had a mouth between my buttcheeks instead of my facecheeks, I could talk to you with it and eat stuff with my brand new assmouth. So far so good.

But what if you want to affix a bodypart to itself? Sure, stick a small hand on the top of my hand. It’s still a hand, but with an extra hand. Or maybe on the tips of our fingers, so we can give eachother tiny handshakes. In the latter case, the mouth still works: you can put tiny mouths on parts of your mouth, like your teeth. Or maybe a tiny mouth in the middle of each of your lips.

However you try, though, you can’t stick a mouth on a mouth. A mouth is not a thing. It is structure without essence. A mouth is a negative space. It is an abyssal threshold through which things pass to be devoured.


Strange shape [source]

I know of one properly recursive mouth in cultural history, and that is the Alien from the Alien movies. It is, appropriately, called a Xenomorph, which literally means ‘weird shape’. And even then: this is a mouth in a mouth. Point made.

Maybe that’s why mouths are so fascinating. They are concepts, and they are on our body, but they aren’t actually things. That’s all I wanted to say really. Mouths are weird.

Further mouths: