What is not there, or is, in hindsight.

the-treachery-of-images-this-is-not-a-pipe-1948(2) (1)

Yesterday I conducted a small experiment with one of my family members. I quoted the above line that Magritte put on his painting: Ceci n’est pas une pipe and asked what it was about… the answer is: about a pipe. I bet that if I say this line to a random group of strangers that most will say the same.. Hold that thought for I will get back to this later.

Let’s quote Magritte: “The famous pipe. How people reproached me for it! And yet, could you stuff my pipe? No, it’s just a representation, is it not? So if I had written on my picture “This is a pipe”, I’d have been lying!”

Would he have been lying?

It is interesting to know that Magritte uses a name for something that he both uses to describe his painting with, which is not  a pipe (according to himself), and his pipe in the material world, which is. Or is it? He then says.. you can’t not stuff my pipe.. Meaning you can not stuff the pipe in the painting.. while you could stuff the one in the real world.But the funny thing is.. he did..stuff his pipe and he can… he just has to paint himself stuffing the pipe. And what can not been done with picture can be done with text…as he did.. We just write: Rene Magritte stuffed his pipe… and he did. The wonderful world or text and pictures opens up.

Now I had the tremendous arrogance to make a picture that is a response to the above painting, which is both a play and a sort of criticism on his picture. Lemme show it:

ceci-cest-une-pipe copy
It is actually true. Or is it?

I reduced the principle even further..but I think this one works best.. below there are more options.

A pipe is in a certain way a thought construct and when I write down the word and use the similar style of painting and your associative thought of it.. you will see before you a pipe, perhaps even the pipe Magritte painted. And when I ask you about the properties of that pipe you will tell me that you can use it to smoke tobacco and you have to stuff it and old people smoke pipe.. and so on.

Actually.. now that I have show you the above picture.. I might go a step further…

By now you still associate this picture with Magritte’s picture.. and you still see his pipe, because the word invokes the image or thought.. and all associations that go with it.

ceci-une-pipe copy

I kept the words on the same location although I made a few pictures that put the words in the center.. this in place makes the association stronger.


Let’s reduce the complexity even further..




You will probably agree with me that the last two pictures will not make any sense if it did not have the Magritte’s to associate with it. Which is the fascinating thing about thoughts and imagery. The image can be used to toy with an idea as can words. Imagery and words can be used to replace or change what we see. The use of words and imagery can have a strong impact that can be manipulated to tell a story.

Take as example Newspeak(From the wikipedia)

“Newspeak is the fictional language in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, written by George Orwell. It is a controlled language created by the totalitarian state as a tool to limit free thought, and concepts that pose a threat to the regime such as freedom, self-expression, individuality, peace, etc.”


“The aim of Newspeak is to remove all shades of meaning from language, leaving simple concepts (pleasure and pain, happiness and sadness, goodthink and crimethink) that reinforce the total dominance of the State. Newspeak root words serve as both nouns and verbs, further reducing the total number of words; for example, “think” is both noun and verb, so the word thought is not required and can be abolished. The party also intends that Newspeak be spoken in staccato rhythms with syllables that are easy to pronounce. This will make speech more automatic and unconscious and reduce the likelihood of thought.”

This concept is thus to further control by reducing complexity. The funny thing that it might go both ways. Reducing shades of meaning will make people wonder what actually is meant by a statement.. Hence thought returns because the language is not complex enough to denote all possible meanings and people are left to wander what they ought to do. In other words. Newspeak, this tool to reduce thoughts, will defeat itself.


The above picture has no meaning without context.. which is provided by this picture:

the-treachery-of-images-this-is-not-a-pipe-1948(2) (1)

And Magritte’s painting has no meaning without context either and only works because it became famous. The painting itself has become a though construct that gives meaning and context that would not have worked before it existed.

It is funny that this picture can lead to the following pattern:

patterns-of-thought copy

Now let’s see this concept at work..

The image of a window. So what?

So what is going on here?

Well this is a picture of Clementine missing. There is no Clementine…

This is the image before..

There is Clementine.

And this is the image after..

And now she is gone.. but no worry.. Clementine never existed as she was merely an computer generated image.

Let’s shuffle the images around for fun.

walkingdead-selection-screen-1 copy

Shuffling the images around can change the story especially when you do not know what happened before and after. But there is a certain pattern in the above pictures: the top row shows the given order.. the camera closes in…

The next row shuffles it about.. as do the next.  I leave this for some other post a bit as this goes into another direction.

Lets play around with words and pictures…..

The book of summer

When I showed this landscape(it is made in OSGrid) and said the name was summer.. the immediate reaction was: this is not summer.. it is winter. The thing is that I know something that you do not know yet… it is actually summer because in my tale it snows in summer.. Now I could also say.. the town is called Summer, but in this case that was not the reason.  This is a simple play around with words to capture interest.


This is a further extension of the idea and this one is true in the sense of Magritte. I removed all the text because in that way you can either add your own or just think about the picture. In thinking along with Magritte: it is not an umbrella because it is a picture of an umbrella. But the umbrella in the picture lacks the one thing we have an umbrella for: it can not stop the rain and if an umbrella does not stop the rain is it still an umbrella or rahter.. even as a depiction of an umbrella it fails.

Originally I tried to capture in the text that the girl in the picture was trying to invoke the umbrella through an act of belief. If you just belief hard enough the umbrella appears and protects against the rain.. but alas her faith in the umbrella was not strong enough and the umbrella never became strong enough to stop the rain.

I like the odd strange things to work into pictures and text and play around with them…

2 responses to “What is not there, or is, in hindsight.”

  1. I find this post interesting, but I think you missed his point. What Magritte was saying with this painting is that our ideas about things are NOT the things themselves, and should not be confused as such. The painting of a pipe is NOT a pipe, it is a depiction of a pipe, and as such, it cannot perform the function of a pipe. If Magritte were to paint a picture of himself stuffing his pipe, he would not be stuffing his pipe; he would be creating an abstraction that referred to him stuffing his pipe. He would not be able to celebrate finishing his painting with a smoke until he pulled out his actual, physical pipe, and stuffed it with whatever he may have been smoking 😏.
    The message he was conveying was that the map is not the territory, or the menu is not the meal. If you disagree, try eating the menu on your next restaurant visit, and see if it affects the quality of your experience.🙂

    1. Hi thank you for the remark. I understand your words and also what Magritte means, but the point goes a bit further than this. We give meaning to objects. We can also speak about objects without them being present. In that way: I just eat the menu card in the restaurant that I just visited. It was jummy.

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