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02 DECEMBER 2009

Ceci n'est pas une pipe: undercutting our expectation about representation

"Doesn't a picture that declares, 'This is not a pipe,' undercut our expectation that representation will give us the thing – in this case, the pipe – itself? The difficulty it presents is no accident. Magritte was perhaps unique among the visual artists of this century in the depth of his philosophical lore. Another of his pipe dreams contains a depiction of a pipe on a blackboard under which 'This is not a pipe' is inscribed in a schoolmasterly hand. Floating above the blackboard Magritte depicts a kind of Platonic pipe. By virtue of its disproportionate size and free–floating dislocation, this utopian pipe is made to seem a mirage, while the depiction of a pipe, comfortably ensconced in its frame, enjoys a higher ontological dignity. The superficial contrast between the flat, two–dimensional blackboard pipe and the Platonic or transcendental overpipe is subverted, and it dawns on us that it is the picture of the pipe that we know, not the pipe in itself."

(Flint Schier, 23 January 1983, The New York Times)

Fig.1 La Trahison des images (Ceci n'est pas une pipe), 1929; Fig.2 René Magritte – Die zwei Mysterien, 1966, "Die Pfeife ist keine Pfeife", (Ceci n'est pas une Pipe)




19291983artartistBelgian • ceci nest pas une pipe • idealismmeta-paintingMichel FoucaultmimesispipePlatoRene Magritterepresentationrepresentational strategiessignificationsignifiedsignifier • this is not a pipe • truthvisual arts


Simon Perkins

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