This Is Not a Pipe

This is a painting by surrealist painter Renee Magritte. Actually it’s a translation as Magritte’s was in French. It succinctly sums up what we were discussing in class yesterday. An image of an egg mcmuffin is not an actual egg mcmuffin. And the difference between the image and the thing is, literally, the only thing that we as image makers deal with.  Look at it, try to really wrap your head around it.pipe

This painting also inspired a short book by philosopher Michel Foucault.  He points out that 1)”This” is not a pipe.  2)”Pipe” is also not a pipe 3)The image itself is not a pipe. But because we clearly see that it is a pipe, our way of communicating and referring to real things in the world is short circuited.  No wonder Magritte called this series of paintings “The Treachery of Images”.

If he were reading this post he would point out that my first sentence is technically incorrect.  Why, given the point Magritte makes, would he say this, do you think?


3 Responses to “This Is Not a Pipe”

  1. phil morin Says:

    Nope it should read “this a blog post ”

    but what I am writing is a blog comment.

    There is yet another point of view on this and that is that even though the image is not the actual object it may not even be an image of what most would think it represents.For example it could be a brown saxophone ,half of a strange mustache,the symbol for number 7 .Or again perhaps an externalization of an internal idea ,emotion etc…

    or maybe it is the pipe and the one we think the pipe is just a 3 dimensional illustration of the real 2d “pipe”.

    now lets’ go ask some conceptual artist what they think ….

  2. kristenbernard Says:

    We looked at this image a lot in both art history and while studying Foucault in Aesthetics. I think it is interesting: On one side, it deals with the integrity of our culture’s images, and on the other it deals with the intent of the image. For saying “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” when clearly, it is an IMAGE of one is speaking in literal terms. Also, it could represent that the artist controls the image. He or she can draw a pipe and then take ownership of it, saying “well, I don’t want it to be a pipe, so it isn’t”

    It also relates to what Andy Warhol was doing in the sixties. Who is to say his images of Campbell Soup cans are legitimate art or not? But his concept behind it was not for commercial means (or so we like to think) but to prove that he is an artist, and he is doing it because, well, he can… and nobody else has ever thought of it first.

    That is the difference between “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” and “Soup Cans” versus a photograph of a Big Mac…is that they former are critiquing society and making some sort of statement, where most of the images we absorb each day may have some aesthetic qualities but overall do not challenge the viewer to think or attach emotionally.

  3. revolution4405 Says:

    As she put it “this is not a pipe”, so should you have stated “this is not a painting…”


    i don’t know…

    it’s spring break…

    my mind is not in school mode

    and I kind of agree with kristen, the images we see today do not challenge society, which is fine, not all images have to in my mind, but its sad that those are the ones we care about and pay attention to and actually have impact, instead of the ones that are supposed to… ironic…

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