2 Answers

  1. This text is a figurative, symbolic expression on the subject of human cognitive ability. Paintings are used to illustrate abstract philosophical reasoning. Works of art are a very suitable material for philosophizing, since art, like abstract philosophy, uses figurative language, symbolism. And so the tube is not a tube, it is an image, a symbol of much more than just a tube.
    Foucault takes as a basis two paintings by Magritte from different years with the same image, but in different environments. More precisely, in the first picture, the tube has no environment at all, and in the second picture, the image of the tube is enclosed in a frame, stands on an easel, and the easel, in turn, stands on a rug that lies on the floor. More than enough for the” context ” in which the subject has fallen, so that the subject can be defined, detailed and draw far-reaching conclusions, which, unfortunately, are based on our usual ideas, beliefs, unconscious beliefs that we unconditionally accept as true, although this is not the case at all. If you look closely, the easel has only three legs. It is not at all as stable and reliable as it seems, which means that the “context” in which the tube is enclosed, namely a three-legged easel, can collapse, and with it all our confidence that we correctly understood what we were seeing.As for the tube on an empty background, can you comprehend the phenomenon out of context? Foucault says it becomes an illusion, a dream, it slips away. Indeed, how to comprehend it, if there is nothing to connect it with? Read: any “context” is not reliable to have strong beliefs about anything.
    Foucault builds all his arguments, similar to the scrupulous and “superfluous” analysis of these paintings by Surrealist artists, around the fact that human cognitive ability is limited. The surrealists do not mean at all in their paintings what is directly depicted there. There is an ocean of meaning behind all these lines, geometric shapes, and even recognizable objects.
    In addition to what I said about why a pipe isn't really a pipe, Foucault gives other explanations. For example, Magritte, in his opinion, emphasizes the separation of text that refers to a tube, but clearly is not a tube in itself, and the image of a tube (which is also not a tube in itself). Are we always able to see this double bottom and avoid categorical statements? Not about paintings, but about anything at all?
    No, I'm not saying that this work has absolutely nothing to do with art criticism. It has. How much does this “encrypted” art relate to philosophy, and philosophy – to art? Foucault points out the general principles of Western painting, characterizes the manners of artists Magritte, Klee and Kandinsky.

  2. In short, Foucault analyzes how the relationship between word and image has changed in modern painting. He draws attention to the fact that not only aesthetic norms and principles have changed, but an important role has been played by the conscious critical action of the artist, who also uses tools related to practices outside of art.

    In chapter 3 (“Klee, Kandinsky, Magritte”) Foucault identifies two aesthetic norms (principles) that, in his opinion, have been central to painting since the 15th century.:

    1) the principle of incompatibility between “plastic representation”, an image that is by definition similar to an object, and “linguistic reference”, a word that is arbitrary and excludes similarity; incompatibility is necessary because whenever an image and a word met each other (in a picture or in a book), one of them was subordinate to the other

    2) the principle of equivalence between “the fact of similarity” and “the existence of a representative connection”, which implies that any case of similarity between an image in a picture and an object in the world implies a mimetic connection, which in turn affects the meaning of the picture.

    Klee, according to Foucault, deconstructed the first principle by creating a space in which the artist's canvas is also a book page, and in which image and text are equal. Kandinsky, with respect to the second principle, showed that lines and colors in a painting are just as valid objects as the images they constitute, but they do not resemble anything other than the gesture that created them. Magritte deconstructs the two ruling principles by articulating them and simultaneously undermining their authority. Once both principles are deconstructed by the critical action of the artist, he is free to explore and create new principles, and again to struggle with their power, since all practices involve the subordination of some elements to others. Foucault argues that such a critical action is the practice of modern painting.

    For example, two pictures containing the statement Ceci n'est pas une pipe (“It's not a pipe”). An early painting, Ceci n'est pas une pipe (1926), explores the strange relationship between word and image. It may seem that words exercise power over the image (tube), since they name it and assert its referent (violation of principle 1). However, at the same time, the words deny the statement, undermining their authority. In addition, while words are more likely to confirm principle 2 by asserting a connection between an image and an object in the real world, they also break this connection by denying it. Now the image is free from the word, and this may seem to confirm principle 1. However, as soon as Magritte removes the subordination of the image to the word, which was the cause of incompatibility, the image and the word are released and can be with each other on an equal and any other relationship determined by practice.

    Perhaps Foucault believes that this freedom may have been the theme of a later painting, Les Deux myst̬res (1966). Depicting a large tube floating in the air next to the earlier painting, the new painting asserts not only the freedom of the image from subordination to the word, but also the freedom of the image from any relationship with the word, since the flying tube does not have any definite relationship with the embedded picture. Free from any relationship between them, the image and the word cease to be incompatible Рundermining principle 1 Рand are free from the implied connection between similarity and reference Рundermining principle 2. In this way, Magritte implements critical action in his paintings, like Klee, Kandinsky and others before him. And despite the fact that in this case a purely aesthetic question was considered, the ability to take critical action that changes aesthetic norms is basically the same as in the case of norms in other human practices (social, political, etc.).

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