Thursday, July 16, 2015

Ceci n'est pas une Magritte

Magritte's original, painted around 1928 or 1929, was entitled "La trahison des images" - the treason or treachery of images. In the century since then we have grown so accustomed to the thinking behind this work that the originality of its thought has become lost; Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, Claude Levi-Strauss, Michel Foucault, the entire field of Structuralism and Deconstructive Post-Modernism have rendered it merely general knowledge. We know that this is not a pipe; it is simply a painting of a pipe. But what required several volumes over several decades by those philosophers, and ended up in language that was itself so complex that it now requires more volumes to paraphrase it into layman-speech, Magritte summed up in a single image.

Making my own version of the pipe was much simpler than I had anticipated. What was really difficult was the handwriting. I only had to make the last word, but Magritte's signature on his paintings is very different from the handwriting here, so it could not be cut and pasted; the "a", "i", "t" and "e" could be carried over from the first four words, but the "m", "g" and "r" were down to me. I think that two big questions remain after the completion of the work - and the first is one for which both Derrida and Foucault provide answers, but unfortunately they are conflicting answers. The first is: capital "M" for Magritte, because it is grammatically correct, or lower case "m" for magritte, because it is aesthetically correct in the context of both the line in the painting and the use of lower case in the title of the original? The second is purely grammatical: "un magritte" or "une magritte"? I have chosen the feminine, simply because I always do.


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