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This Is Not a Pipe by Michel Foucault
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This Is Not a Pipe (1973)

by Michel Foucault

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RENE MAGRITTE TO FOUCAULT
The words Resemblance and Similitude permit you forcefully to suggest the presence – utterly foreign – of the world and ourselves. Things do not have resemblances, only thought resembles. It resembles by what it sees, hears, or knows; it becomes what the world offers it. Things do or do not have similitudes.

Painting interposes a problem: there is the thought that sees an can be visibly described. Las Meninas is the visible image of Velasquez’s invisible thought. Then is the invisible sometimes visible? On the condition that thought be constituted exclusively of visible images. For a time a curious priority has been accorded the invisible, owing to a confused literature, whose interest vanishes if we remember that the visible can be hidden, but the invisible hides nothing; it can be known or not known, no more. There is no reason to accord more importance to the invisible that to the visible, nor vice versa. A painted images hides nothing, it is intangible by its very nature. The tangibly visible object hides another visible thing, if we trust our experience.

What does no lack importance is the mystery evoked in fact by the visible and the invisible, and which can be evoked in principle by the thought that unites things in an order that evokes mystery. Sometimes the name of an object takes the place of an image. A word can take the place of an object in reality. An image can take the place of a word in a proposition.

FOUCAULT ON KLEE, KANDINSKY, AND MAGRITTE
The calligram is tautological, it has a triple role: to augment the alphabet, to repeat something without the aid of rhetoric, to trap things in a double cipher. It lodges statements in the space of a shape, and makes the text say what the drawing represents. The calligram uses the capacity of letters to signify both as linear elements that can be arranged in space and as signs that must unroll according to a unique chain of sound. As a sign, the letter permits us to fix words; as line, it lets us give shape to things. ( )
  8982874 | May 11, 2013 |
Short essays by Foucault exploring modern and modernistic art and literature.
  Fledgist | Oct 4, 2009 |
This essay is from a series called "Art Quantums" of short (
  jezzaboogie | Oct 17, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0520049160, Paperback)

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 the French philosopher-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--"confronting them and within a common system, a figure at once opposed and complementary."
Foucault's brief but extraordinarily rich essay offers a startling, highly provocative view of a painter whose influence and popularity continue to grow unchecked. This is Not a Pipe also throws a new, piquantly dancing light on Foucault himself.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:20:41 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

This volume contains the author's classic essay on the complex relationship between language and image in Ren Magritte's iconic painting. What does it mean to write "This is not a pipe" across a bluntly literal painting of a pipe? The painting is not a pipe, but rather an image of a pipe, which was Magritte's point. 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. The author's essay offers a view of a painter whose influence and popularity continue to grow unchecked.… (more)

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