It talks. It chews. It licks and it swallows. We may be obsessed with freshening our breath, painting our lips and whitening our teeth, but these exercises are as futile as waxing a tractor. Our mouth is a workhorse.
“People use their mouth to suck on a bleeding wound, bite ingrown nails, and sometimes we even try to blow little objects (like a pill) out of the small crevices under the bed and other places as we awkwardly lie prone on the floor,” Guo tells Co.Design. “The more they occur in everyday life, the more we take them for granted.” His Mouth Factory is like a five-piece Craftsman tool set from A Clockwork Orange, a series of intricate devices that, while perfectly functional–and possibly even comfortable–produce an almost nauseating response. It’s equal parts wondrous and disgusting as an operator chews to drill, lathes with their teeth, extrudes with their tongue, rotationally molds by breathing out or vacuum molds by breathing in. Parental threats of pubescent-era head gear arise every time a new tool is strapped to the subject’s head. My jaw clenches and fillings ache watching the tools at work, as a life full of bad oral decisions, from chewed jawbreakers to idiotic comments, pass before my psyche.
“By exploring the capabilities of a frequently used yet underdeveloped organ, what I did was distill these common oral/body movements and put them into the scenarios specifically designed to make us think about the reciprocal relationship between humans and their surrounding objects,” Guo writes. But to me, his explanation is coy in its faux neutrality. We’re not watching silly, Double Dare-inspired gag helmets formed from neon plastics and Nerf. We’re watching leather and metal on flesh and bone, tenuously protected by millimeters of padding here and there.
Guo designed the Mouth Factory to be a horrifyingly industrial tool. Its mechanisms may be ingenious and entirely functional, but they channel Hannibal Lecter, not Mark Summers. I can’t help but wonder if Guo doesn’t really want us to respect the strength of the human mouth, but to fear its fragile, indispensable power in our lives.
Is this toothy, salivating compactor really on my face? Is it really what I use to kiss my wife goodnight and chew my high-fiber breakfast cereal each morning? What sort of monster does that make me?
[Hat tip: Core77]