Bruno Latour interviewing Michel Serres

M. Serres. Conversations on science, culture, and time / Michel Serres with Bruno Latour. University of Michigan Press, 1995.

Serres, in his discussions with Latour, uses sound, music, and musical instruments quite often to illustrate his points:

And something that’s even more interesting: Hermes is the one who invented the nine-stringed lyre. What is a musical instrument, if not a table on which one can compose a thousand languages, and as many melodies and chants? Its invention opens the way for an infinite number of inventions. This is good philosophy in action, whose excellent goal is to invent the transcendental space, the conditions, for possible inventions of the future. The invention of possible inventions. This is a good image, followed by a good generalization, of what I was pointing out a little while ago: the conditional space and time for transporting messages back and forth. So, touch all the strings of this instrument and compose at leisure the possible ballads: this opens up a whole time. (p. 117)

As well, Serres extends Hermes beyond his death, into the Christian era with angels, as the “multiplicity of […] messengers fills the heavens.” I do not think he intends his allusion to absorb the entirety of the theological implications; however, he also does not discount them either. Rather, for Serres, angels (in their multiple, stratified sense) allow him to describe succinctly his understanding of the world of relations between concepts, a description that seems to have much in line with the “Hertzian Space” of Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby (see Hertzian Tales , recently updated, and Design Noir ):

What could be more luminous than a space traversed with messages? Look at the sky, even right here above us. It’s traversed by planes, satellites, electromagnetic waves from television, radio, fax, electronic mail. The world we are immersed in is a space-time of communication. Why shouldn’t I call it angel space, since this means the messengers, the systems of mailmen, of transmissions in the act of passing or the space through which they pass? Do you know, for example, that at every moment there are at least a million people on flights through the sky, as though immoble or suspended—nonvariables with variations? Indeed, we live in the century of angels. (pp. 118-119)

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