Ceci n’est pas une pipe - this is not a pipe*. Magritte presents the observer with a pipe as the image of an object existing in reality. But, according to him, this object, when captured in oil on an empty two-dimensional canvas, is not the pipe anymore as it originally was, and is therefore not available in its originial context.
The everyday object is converted into a piece of art, thus acquiring a new context.
This is not an Asia Blog plays with the fact that my written words are only a reflection of what I actually experience. The experience is transformed through the words and plays a similar role for the reader (recipient) as Magritte’s pipe.
Moreover, it is the connection between language/character and imagery that Magritte is concerned with here - word and image are not directly connected. “What Magritte renders with such visible strangeness is symbolized through the non-relationship - or at least the very complex and random relationship - between the painting and its title”. says Michel Foucault in his same titled book Ceci n’est pas une pipe (1973).
Magritte himself writes about his work: “the titles themselves are selected such that my painting cannot be put in a familiar place, which the mind automatically wishes to create in order to avoid uneasiness”. Here, he assumes that the mind acts automatically, to not have to constantly deal with the “uneasiness” it must face in everyday life.
Similar to the Brechtian alienation (where an action [in theater] is interrupted by a commentary or song to destroy any illusion the audience may have), the recipient is thus forced to consciously use his/her mind and question it. If one were to imagine the painting without caption, the pipe is nothing but the mere picture of a pipe.
*René Magritte, Ceci n'est pas une pipe, Oil on canvas, 63.5 × 93.98 cm, 1929, Los Angeles, County Museum of Art, The William R. Hearst Coll.
Photo Credit: http://www.library.yale.edu/librarynews/ceci-n-est-pas-une-pipe.jpg