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: