René Magritte’s famous “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” painting illustrates powerfully and swiftly the aim of the exhibition Eye Rhymes. In this work, Magritte catalyzes a full equalization of the text and image. He entitles this work, La Trahison des Images (The Betrayal of Images), but Magritte does not specify who or what is being betrayed. Perhaps the image of the pipe is betrayed by the objecting words, “This is not a pipe.” At the same time, the title ambiguously includes the viewer who is betrayed by the image or the text to think that it is or is not a pipe. Amazingly, Magritte is able to reduce and infinitely desaturate the text and the image by the indeterminate word, trahison. Word and object continuously betray each other, never allowing the other to rest in the viewer’s mind as superior or subordinate.
This tension is exactly what we hope to capture in the works we have displayed in the Winter Gallery. Eye Rhymes challenges viewers to consider the dynamics of power when an image and a text struggle to come to the fore. Is there such a thing as what Ernest Fenollosa called a “thought-picture” that “speaks at once with the vividness of painting, and with the mobility of sounds”?
Is simultaneity possible, or is the reader or viewer always prioritizing language over the visual or the image over the linguistic?
Eye Rhymes will also serve as a classroom space for the fall 2010 Scribner Seminar, "Ways of Seeing: Image, Text, Illumination." Students will wrestle with “reading” these multiple and various conflations of image and text. Examining how the melding of language and the visual both massages and manipulates our senses, the class will explore whether such tension can produce visual rhymes or even a new idiom fraught with meaning. The course will culminate in a collaborative reconfiguration of the gallery space. Students’ individual research on selected artists and works of art and their understanding of the friction between words and images will inform the final design of this space.