THIS IS NOT A PIPE
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.