Beautiful Theology .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Beautiful Theology

Signifying truth in more than words alone

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Words and Images 8

This unit perplexes me somewhat. I think I accept part of what I take to be Magritte’s point, but I hesitate to endorse the claim as a whole.

Un objet fait supposer qu’il y en a d’autres derrière lui.

An object can give the impression that there are other objects behind it.

Well, yes and no.

Nothing about the drawing in and of itself implies that there are objects behind it. Indeed, the picture that Magritte provides suggests an object — a brick wall — and almost all observers will see the shading that signifies perspective, and infer from it a dimensionality that ordinarily (necessarily?) entails in-front-and-behind-ness, such that there must be (implied) objects behind the wall. But if we begin to say that the picture of a wall implies that objects exist behind it, we elide the differences between pictures and the objects they may depict. We occlude the role that an expresser’s imagination plays, and the role that the observer’s imagination plays in inferring what the image signifies. The expressive and inferential imaginations of sketcher and observer strike at the exact basis of my interest in the visual dimensions of semiotics.

So it’s not that the image of a wall implies that there are objects behind it, but that Magritte drew an image that most viewers will recognize as a wall, with shading that they take to suggest depth, depth that is (presumably) accompanied by other objects in front of and behind the wall.

And the imaginations of sketcher and viewer — that’s where all the implying and inferring take place.


Blogger Pascale Soleil said...

Another possibile translation:

"One object leads us to suppose that there are others behind it."

This would be inherent in the notion of objects in general, as things that live in 3-dimensional space, but also points to the sort of mise en abime where everything "stands for" something beyond/behind it.

Are you sure that the object referred to in the caption is the wall? Maybe it's that pathetic little plant in front of the wall!

February 15, 2007 1:31 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home