Thisisnotapipe

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The ascendancy of poetry over painting

The relationship between words and things was pre­ cisely the theme so many of Magritte's canvases

Magritte and Foucault must have recognized in one another a common fas cination with what I earlier gave the inadequate label of visual non sequiturs, and which Foucault himself has dubbed heterotopias. From a passage in Borges, Foucault explains in Les Mots et les choses, he was led to a strange suspicion that there is a worse kind of disorder than that of the incongruous, the linking together of things that are inap­ propriate; I mean the disorder in which a large number of possible orders glitter separately, in the lawless and un­ charted dimension of the heteroclite

Heterotopias are disturbing, probably because they secretly undermine language, be­ cause they make it impossible to name this and that

heterotopias ... dessicate speech, stop words in their tracks, contest the very possibility of lan­ guage at its source; they dissolve our myths and sterilize the lyricism of our sentences

Magrittes pipe:nothing is easier to say-our language knows it well in our place-than the "name of a pipe

Do not look overhead for a true pipe. That is a pipe dream. It is the drawing within the painting, firmly and rigorously outlined, that must be accepted as a manifest truth


the pipe floating so obviously overhead (like the obj ect the blackboard drawing refers to, and in whose name the text can justifiably say that the drawing is truly not a pipe) is itself merely a drawing. It is not a pipe.

The statement is perfectly true, since it is quite apparent that the draw­ ing representing the pipe is not the pipe itself. And yet there is a convention of language: What is this draw­ ing? Why, it is a c alf, a square, a flower


brings a text and a shape as close as possible. makes the text say what the drawing represents

The calligram is thus tautological. But in op­ position to rhetoric

The latter toys with the fullness of language. It uses the possibility of repeating the same thing in different words, and profits from the extra richness of language that allows us to say differ­ ent things with a single word. The essence of rhetoric is in allegory

As a sign, the letter permits us to fix words; as line, it lets us give shape to things.

Thus the calligram aspires playfully to efface the oldest oppositions of our alphabetical civilization: to show and to name; to shape and to say; to re­ produce and to articulate; to imitate and to signify; to look and to read.

Pursuing its quarry by two paths, the calligram sets the most perfect trap

disturbing all the traditional bonds of language and the image.

Magritte restored things to their own places, he took care that the shape would pre­ serve the patience of writing and that the text remain always only a drawing of a representation

And at the moment when he should reveal the name, Magritte does so by denying that the obj ect is what it is


You see me so clearly that it would be ridiculous for me to arrange myself so as to write: This is a pipe. To be sure, words would draw me less adequately than I represent my­ self.

We must therefore admit between the figure and the text a whole series of intersections-or rather attacks launched by one against the other, arrows shot at the enemy target, enterprises of subversion and destruction, lance blows and wounds. a battle.

Magritte's statement is negated by the immediate and reciprocal dependency between the drawing of the pipe and the text by which the pipe can be named. Designation and design do not overlap one another


Nowhere is there a pipe.


2 principles, western painting: The first asserts the separation between plastic rep resentation (which implies resemblance) and linguistic reference (which excludes it).

The second principle that long ruled painting posits an equivalence between the fact of resemblance and the affirmation of a representative bond.

Magritte names his paintings in order to focus attention upon the very act of naming