Craig Martin

"In principle, the ability to be supple is still in the particles, but is locked out of any future transformations [...] it has returned to the virtual" (Massumi, 1992:48)

I often think of foodstuffs in terms of the virtual. Not in the hackneyed sense, but rather as substances that approach the actual by in fact preceding and so, enacting it. These musings on the act of transformation, specifically the movement from one state to another, have taken on added weight recently after purchasing an old-fashioned butter dish made of glass. You will recognise it: the kind that gives a satisfying grind of glass on glass, as the upper portion is rested back on the lower. That rub - that coming together - is delighting for me. It performs an act of sealing, thus problematising the notion of transformation. Another recent purchase of a similar food container, but this time contemporary in nature, makes claims to be "absolutely air tight". Setting outside from inside. The seal, on this and other such containers, precludes. It determines. It denies.

The seal has some interesting properties, I think. But ones that render it at odds to the substances it holds in. It has to be, you see. It is one of those domestic 'technologies', those bits of material culture, that belie a range of wider theories (and flights of the imagination). Ideally, a seal withholds sensory engagement. Smells are muted, sight often denied. The movement of fluids are stymied by the boundary line of a seal. For those fluids and other such substances the seal is controlling, it is defensive. This function renders the seal Durkheimian. By contrast, many of the foodstuffs that it attempts to control are Bachelardian (Game, 1995:193). Durkheim's 'aridness' is pitted against Bachelard's 'dampness' in the banal environs of the food container. That is, Bachelard's outline of a watery imagination versus the solidity and stability of knowledge as posited by Durkheim. The seal may then be seen as the schism between movement and control, becoming and permanence. In its closed state it holds back the outflow of flux, or the danger of difference. With the broken seal, or the opened container, two worlds become one, or rather a third (Serres, 1997). I am torn: between the monad of the closed box, and the leaking of its contents.


Ann Game (1995). Time, Space, Memory, with Reference to Bachelard. In: Featherstone, M., Lash, S. & Robertson, R. (Eds.). Global Modernities. pp.192-208. London: Sage. Brian Massumi (1992). A User's Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press Michel Serres (1997). The Troubadour of Knowledge. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press