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By Michel Foucault

What does it suggest to write down "This isn't a pipe" throughout a bluntly literal portray of a pipe? René Magritte's recognized canvas presents the place to begin for a pleasant homage by means of French thinker and historian Michel Foucault. far better recognized for his incisive and mordant explorations of strength and social exclusion, Foucault the following assumes a extra playful stance. via exploring the nuances and ambiguities of Magritte's visible critique of language, he reveals the painter much less got rid of than formerly idea from the pioneers of recent abstraction.

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The p ainting is the speak of a rebus , that chain of shapes so simply reco gnized as to be im mediately identifiable, its mere formula enj oining the articu­ lation of a s entence whos e which means has not anything to do with the figures really obvious there . the following, shapes are so imprecise as to be unnameable in the event that they didn't establish themselves. And at the genuine p ainting as seen-blobs , shadows, silhouettes-there i s superimposed the in­ seen danger o f one other p ainting right now generic as a result of fi g ures pres ented and but weird and wonderful be­ reason behind the j uxtaposition of horse and armchair. An obj ect in a p ainting is a quantity geared up and tinted in order that its form is instantly reco gnizable and needn't be named . In fo rm, the essential mass is ab­ sorbed, the dead identify brushed off. M a g ritte elides the obj ect's shape and superimposes the identify at once upon the m as s . The subs tantive hyperlink of the obj ect itself isn't any longer represented other than by way of its severe issues, the mass that casts a shadow and the identify that designates it. L' Alphabet des revelations 1 1 contrasts fairly accurately with Personnage marchant vers l ' horizon : an outstanding wooden­ en body divided into p anels ; at the ri ght, s o me sim­ ple, completely recognizable fo r m s : a pipe, a key , a leaf, a glas s . At the backside of the ri ght p anel, the configuration of a rip indicates that the shapes are not any greater than lower outs in a s heet of skinny p a p er. at the different p anel, a type of twisted , tangled string depicts no recognizable form (save perha p s , and this is often very Burrowing phrases forty-one 12 uncertain: L A , LE ) . N o mass, no identify, shape with out quantity, an empty reduce out, this is often the obj ect-the obj ect that had vanished from the previous p ainting. M ake no mistake: I n an area the place each aspect turns out to obey the only precept of res emblance and plastic illustration, linguistic symptoms (which had an excluded charisma, which prowled a long way round the photograph, which the name' s arbitrariness appeared to have b anished eternally) have surreptitiously reapproached. Into the solidity of the picture, into its meticulous resemblance, they've got brought a disorder-an order p ertaining to the eyes on my own. they've got routed the obj ect, re­ vealing its filmy thinnes s . I n order t o set up his plastic indicators , Klee wove a brand new area. Magritte permits the outdated area of represen­ tation to rule, yet basically on the s urface, not more than a elegant stone, bearin g phrases and shapes : b eneath, not anything . I t is a headstone: The incisions that drew figures and those who marked letters converse simply by way of void, the non-place hidden underneath marble solidity. i'll word that this absence reascends to the floor and impinges upon the portray itself. while Magritte deals his model of Madame Balcon , 1 three Recamier or Le he replaces the normal portray s ' charac­ ters with coffins . Invisibly contained among waxen oak plank s , emptines s undoes the s velocity comp osed by means of the amount of residing bodie s , the association of garments , the course of the gaze and all of the faces which are approximately to spea okay .

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