Unreal Nature

February 7, 2013

When the Bird Fans Out Its Tail

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:23 am

This is from The Five Senses: A Philosophy of Mingled Bodies by Michel Serres (2008, 1985):

… Anyone who drinks one of those industrial concoctions which are flooding the market and the planet, is swallowing terminology; and is fully aware of what they are drinking. It moves through the mouth like a language: written on a small label. Everything inside the metal or plastic container is declared on paper, everything printed on the external surface can be found within, These two propositions leave no remainder. The brand announces a finite and quite brief sequence: drinking is as much analysis as reading is; the label and the container carry the same series of words or substances: a formula for refreshment, abstraction in a bottle, pharmacy. The law decrees it. Imposes the fidelity of advertising. The law, written, forces the written label on us, and we are made to drink writing. Concoction or drug, same decree. Sense begins and ends with language. Anaesthesia and numbed mouth. Potion.

Anyone who drinks a good wine will not talk of brands, cannot say fully what flows over the palate, or lingers in the mouth. A finely detailed watered-silk map is drawn there, lacking ready-made words to designate it or sentences to describe it, for want of experience, apart from feeble vocabulary which everyone ridicules. The label carries a drawing of the château or the name of the estate, an indication of the vineyard or its location. If we had to set out what the wine contains, the list would be as long as our admiration of the wine was profound, the label would cover the bottle, the cellar, the vines and the surface of the countryside, mapping them all faithfully, point by point. Excellence opens up a descriptive sequence which we can imagine running on to infinity.

… The act of tasting anticipates the unfolding of this hard, dense involution, the unfurling of this ball wound around itself, the delectable moment when the bird fans out its tail …

My most recent previous post from Serres’s book is here.

-Julie

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