I absolutely love this painting.
If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s a painting of a pipe by
French Belgian painter René Magritte. Underneath it is a caption which reads (in French), “This is not a pipe.”
It’s easy to brush it off as simple absurdism. Of course it’s a pipe. There’s no ambiguity about it. It’s not disguised as anything else. It’s a pipe, duh. What else would it be?
Except it’s not. It’s not a pipe. It’s a picture of a pipe. We imbue it with meaning, we refer to it as if it’s the same thing as what it represents, but it’s not. It’s an image of a pipe.
Of course, that’s not entirely true, either, is it? It’s not really an image of a pipe, it’s a bunch of paint on a canvas. Even the step of saying it’s an image of a pipe involves us injecting meaning. And of course, it’s not even paint on a canvas for anyone who’s looking at it through this post—it’s a bunch of pixels which make up an image of paint on a canvas which itself represents the object we call “pipe”.
We see colored dots and we call it a pipe. But this—this is not a pipe.
The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth — it is the truth which conceals that there is none.
The simulacrum is true.
-Jean Baudrillard, attributed to Ecclesiastes
edit: Magritte was Belgian, not French, as pointed out by someinfos. Thanks for the heads-up!
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