The Story of My Teeth

Nemere Kerezsi „Podwójne przeczenie –  rozważanie” („Kettős Tagadás – Mérlegelésben”), obiekt z metalu (zęby, miniaturowe serce i piórko na wadze), 2014. Chimera-Project Gallery. Budapeszt 2015


„The symbol of losing teeth has the primitive meaning of losing one’s grip because under primitive circumstances and in the animal kingdom, the teeth and mouth are the gripping organ. If one loses teeth, one loses the grip on something. Now this can mean a loss of reality, a loss of relationship, a loss of self-control, etc.

The English word grip is contained in the German word Begriff (conception or notion). The Latin word conceptio means the same, i.e., catching hold of something, having a grip on something. Thus the lost tooth also can mean that one loses a certain conception of things, a hitherto valid opinion or attitude.

The dream of the bone in the skull seems to point to the hole in the skull through which the soul escapes according to primitive belief. This can mean a fear of death or a somewhat dangerous communication with the unconscious. That the bone comes out of the mouth in the form of a tooth would convey the idea that a certain old opinion has been lost or is to be lost”.

Carl Gustav Jung Letters of C. G. Jung: Volume I, 1906-1950  (fragm.)


„I’m the best auctioneer in the world, but no one knows it because I’m a discreet sort of man. My name is Gustavo Sánchez Sánchez, though people call me Highway, I believe with affection. I can imitate Janis Joplin after two rums. I can interpret Chinese fortune cookies. I can stand an egg upright on a table, the way Christopher Columbus did in the famous anecdote. I know how to count to eight in Japanese: ichi, ni, san, shi, go, roku, shichi, hachi. I can float on my back.

This is the story of my teeth, and my treatise on collectibles and the variable value of objects. As any other story, this one begins with the Beginning; and then comes the Middle, and then the End. The rest, as a friend of mine always says, is literature: hyperbolics, parabolics, circulars, allegorics, and elliptics. I don’t know what comes after that. Possibly ignominy, death, and, finally, postmortem fame. At that point it will no longer be my place to say anything in the first person. I will be a dead man, a happy, enviable man.

Hyperbolic Lot No. 1

Our first lot is a piece in a somewhat deteriorated state. Yet, considering its antiquity, the overall condition is good; one might even say excellent. Significant flattening of the point leads to the supposition that the original owner, Mr. Plato, talked and ate continuously. He was five feet five inches tall and thirty-three and a half inches broad; he was of medium height but robust, with a fighter’s build. He had a long, cotton-woolly beard, light brown in color; thick hair of the same hue and texture. Mr. Plato flaunted the conventional fashions of the day and wore his toga loose, without a belt. Neither did he wear sandals.

Mr. Plato once made a comparison between the period of dentition and a man falling in love: In this state, the soul enters into effervescence and irritation; and this soul, whose wings are just beginning to develop, can be compared to a child whose gums are inflamed and enervated by its first teeth. Lovely, don’t you think?

I paused momentarily for greater effect.
Ladies and gentlemen, who will open the bidding for the cavernous tooth of our first infamous man?

Hyperbolic Lot No. 2

Do you see this hole on the crown of the piece? If we had been able to enter through that orifice and move upward through the labyrinth of channels that connect the mouth with the cranium in which the teeth nestle, in one of the most remote chambers of the brain we would find this memory: a young student of rhetoric—who is, of course, Augustine himself—is suffering the mortifying pain of a dreadful toothache. The young man is surrounded by family and friends, all of whom believe he will soon be dead since his pain is so severe that he cannot open his mouth to communicate his affliction. At a given moment, he gathers his strength and writes on a wax tablet: Pray for my health. The friends and family pray and the young lad is cured. A miracle. He then decides to dedicate his life to God by means of a book that he begins to write just a few years later, his famous Confessions. That’s right, this gentleman wrote the great Confessions because of a toothache. Who will open the bidding for the memorious tooth of Augustine of Hippo?

Hyperbolic Lot No. 3

I can assure you that this is one of Petrarch’s teeth. One irrefutable proof is the fact that it is an exact reflection of his character. The teeth are the true windows to the soul; they are the tabula rasa on which all our vices and all our virtues are inscribed. Mr. Petrarch had a choleric nature, keen intelligence, and a weakness for sensual pleasures: he was hornier than a goat, and it’s easy to tell by just one look at the length of this incisor. It’s said that Petracco was once found at the doors of the church of Saint Clara, ogling the widowed, single, and married women who entered there to commend their souls to Our Lady of Saint Clara at all hours of the day.

Hyperbollic Lot No. 5

Only one of Mr. Rousseau’s teeth remains in existence, but what a tooth!
They were so ugly that he never showed them, not even in private. He himself was conscious of the awful monstrosity of his teeth. He was an avid reader of Plutarch, from which he learned some virtues and many vices. In Parallel Lives, Plutarch writes that the courtesan Flora never left her lover without ensuring that she bore on her lips the marks of his teeth. After reading that, Jean-Jacques also acquired the habit of asking his lovers to bite him before leaving. But he didn’t once return the bite, since, as he said, his teeth were épouvantables; that is, horrifying. He wasn’t exaggerating.

Hyperbolic Lot No. 8

Some teeth are tormented. Such is the case of this one, the property of Mrs. Virginia Woolf. When she was just thirty years old, a psychiatrist posited the theory that her emotional ills were due to an excess of bacteria around the roots of her teeth. He decided to extract the three most seriously affected ones. Nothing changed. During the course of her life, several more teeth were extracted, but it made no difference. None at all, rien de rien. Mrs. Woolf died by her own hand, with many false teeth in her oral cavity. Her acquaintances only ever saw her smile at her funeral. It’s said that, lying dead in her half-open coffin in the center of the living room, her lips were spread in a smile that lit up her sharp, intelligent features. Who will offer 8,000 pesos for this tortured tooth? Anyone?

Hyperbollic Lot No. 9

Our penultimate lot, ladies and gentlemen, exudes an air of mystical melancholy. The tooth itself is crocodilian, but its aura is almost angelic. Note the curve; it is like a wing in ascent. Its owner, Mr. Jorge Luis Borges, was a man of average height. His short, thin legs supported a torso, which was at once solid and svelte. His head was the size of a small coconut, and he had a slender, flexible neck. He was a pantheist. His eyes used to flit from side to side, useless, impenetrable to sunlight but ready to receive the light of beautiful, good ideas. He spoke slowly, as if searching for adjectives in the darkness. How much will you bid?”

Valeria Luiselli The Story of My Teeth (fragm., 2015)


Nemere Kerezsi „Double Denial –  Scaling” – “In his view, the human condition and role in the world is the easiest to pin down at the intersection of unrelated things. The combination of the right there and right then with formative presence can lead the observer to recognize coincidences. When chance seems to take over, he points out correlations in different networks of reference and these reinforce his inner sense of safety. Discovering and exploring the everyday miracles of his environment offers him a parallel habitat which both presupposes and generates the sense of freedom. As such, he regards his creative activity as a search for liveable spaces and an attempt to present this quest”.

Leopold Bloom Art Award



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