When I wrote about shaking in my last post, I realize, I was taking something important for granted: you are allowed to give the shakers a symbolic shaking that implies violence to the person or thing a shaker represents because the shaker is, in fact, merely a representation–not actually the thing it represents, but a merely an image or replication of it, and so tough enough, hard enough, to take it. You most likely wouldn’t feel right about giving a living naked woman or a real-life African-American pancake cook a good shake–it might actually hurt them. Also, furthermore, they might retaliate and give you a good shaking right back, or maybe the swift uppercut to the jaw that you deserve. But the violence towards unsettling Others that you are likely to veil and hold back in real life is allowable against a mere hunk of earthenware. You can shake the bejeezus out of a shaker-set depiction of a cute aboriginal child without any consequences whatsoever, except possibly the sprinkling of too much salt on your dinner and, eventually over the long term, perhaps, a well-deserved heart attack.
At any rate, it’s in the context of that allowable violence that this particular salt-and-pepper set particularly startled me:
In itself, nothing all that startling; but some readers of this post might recall an earlier post in which I discussed another disconcertingly similar shaker set, one that looked like this:
So it’s the same couple, apparently–but in this earlier shaker set they’re standing, and in the new one I just purchased recently they’re sitting down.
How is that possible?
I suppose there’s some technical explanation about reshaping an old mould or something like that. but when I first saw that sitting couple after already being familiar with the standing one, it really did startle me: how could figures in hard ceramic be captured in different positions? Somehow, it seemed, the old man and the old lady being represented had actually moved–or at least ,were capable of movement. They could stand up and they could, apparently, also sit down.
And if they could do that, could they be so safely and harmlessly shaken after all? Were they merely representations, or, somehow, more alive than that? Was their tough ability to take it merely a pretence after all?
It helps to some degree to realize that, while they look almost exactly the same, have the same glasses, the same clothes, the same facial expressions and so on, these couples are actually two completely different sets–not the same set in a different moment, but two similar sets in the same moment, as here;
Still, if these people can both stand and sit down, might they not also give birth? Can I expect to find yet another set of the same couple, she in the agony of labour pains, he with both of his hands over his ears instead of just one hand over one ear? There’s something all too Frankenstein-ish about these pairs. They’re alive! They’re alive! They’re alive! I’d like to give them all a good shaking.