This is one of my all-time favorite images. When I showed it to filmmaker Werner Herzog, he concurred and added that he believed it belonged “next to the Mona Lisa.”
Demonstration of Eating, Licking, and Drinking was produced by a team of scientists at Cornell University to be included on the Voyager Golden Record, a collection of images and sounds encoded on an LP record and attached to the hull of the Voyager spacecraft. The record was intended to explain something about life on earth to any extraterrestrials that might come across the spacecraft.
Demonstration of Eating, Licking, and Drinking was meant to be an unambiguous representation of how humans consume food. The photograph “presents a great deal of information about how our mouths work,” explained astronomer Carl Sagan, who spearheaded the Golden Record project.
In other words, the image was created by some of the worlds most renowned scientists to be so clear and universal that even an alien in the depths of space could understand it.
What they ended up with – in my opinion – is an image that rivals Magritte and Dali in its surrealism. I take this as an allegory about the nature of images themselves – that images have their own lives and sometimes the more you try to pin them down, the faster and further they will run away from you.