This Is Not a Pipe (Quantum Books)

This Is Not a Pipe (Quantum Books)

Michel Foucault

Language: English

Pages: 104

ISBN: 0520236947

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


What does it mean to write "This is not a pipe" across a bluntly literal painting of a pipe? René Magritte's famous canvas provides the starting point for a delightful homage by French philosopher and historian Michel Foucault. Much better known for his incisive and mordant explorations of power and social exclusion, Foucault here assumes a more playful stance. By exploring the nuances and ambiguities of Magritte's visual critique of language, he finds the painter less removed than previously thought from the pioneers of modern abstraction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

reverses itself. What is essential is that Klee, Kandinsky, Magritte 33 verbal signs and visual representations are never given at once. An order always hierarchizes them, running from the figure to dis course or from dis c ourse to the figure . This is the principle who se sovereignty Klee abol­ ished, by showing the j uxtapos ition of shapes and the syntax of lines in an uncertain , reversible, flo ating space (simultaneously page and canvas , plane and vol­ ume, map and chronicle) . B

rt is not forei gn to the enterprise of Klee and Kandinsky. Rather it constitutes, facing them and o n the basis of a system common to them all, a figure at once o pposed and complementary. 4 Burrowing Words The exteriority o f written and figurative element s , so obvious in M a g ritte, is symbolized by the non­ relation-or in any case by the very complex and problematic rel ation-between the p ainting and its title . This gulf, which prevents us fro m being both the reader and the

viewer at the same time, brings the image into abrupt relief above the horizontal line of words . " The titles are chosen in such a way as to keep anyone from assigning my painti n g s to the familiar region that habitual thought appeals to in order to escape perplexity . " A little like the anonymous hand that designated the pipe by the statement, " This is not a pipe , " Magritte names his paintin g s in order to fo cus attenti o n upon the very a ct of naming . And yet in this split and

together by their recipro cal similitude, the two pipes contest the written statemen t ' s right to call itself a pipe, fo r it is composed of signs with no resem­ blance to the thing they designate . Bound together by the fact that they each come fro m els ewhere , that one is a dis course capable o f conveying truth while the other is like the gho s t of a thing-in-itself, the text and the higher pipe join t o as sert that the pipe in the p aint­ ing is not a pipe. And perhaps w e must also

the vaporous and the solid in the s eries La Bataille de ['Argonne4)? Or might we not supp ose, in the end, that the pipe flo ats behind the painting and the easel , more gigantic than it appears ? In that case it would be its uprooted depth, the inner dimension rupturing the canvas (or p anel) and slowly, in a space henceforth without reference point, exp anding to infinity? About even this ambiguity, however, I am ambig­ uous. Or rather what appears to me very dubious is the simple

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