07 October 2007

Señor Canard Digérateur

The Canard Digérateur, or Digesting Duck, created by Jacques de Vaucanson in 1739.

Confronted with one of the biggest technological shifts since the invention of alphabetic writing, the Enlightenment sublimated its anxieties of automation into the mechanics of life: a shitting duck.

Note the movement from J to F.

Victor first introduced me to Señor Canard Digérateur several months ago, and I've found him -- and it most definitely is a him, in my mind -- in the strangest places. The sparrows nesting over the bedroom vacillate between two images: in the morning, they're precious bits of life, reminders of how Nature can flourish in the ugliest places; by dead noon I'd like to slice them down the middle and label their innards. Only an automaton could scavange so insistently in an alley as ugly as this one.

Vaucanson had incredible new technology at his fingertips. Within its material constraints, he could reshape the world.

Of all things, he chose animal digestion -- a process already governed by one of the most sophisticated machines in the world.

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