The Human Condition


“This is how we see the world, we see it outside ourselves,
and at the same time we only have a representation of it in ourselves.
In the same way, we sometimes situate in the past
that which is happening in the present.” –Rene Magritte, 1940

You know those paintings by Magritte where there’s a painting in the painting and it and what’s behind it coincide. In these paintings there is always visual trick that keeps the images discrete and in a conventional hierarchy. But still, the images are paradoxically both real and representation at the same time.

In this painting–if I may use the term “painting” loosely–the painting in the painting exists simultaneously with the landscape outside, like in Magritte’s works. But here there is none of Magritte’s neo-Platonic hierarchy. These illusions don’t merge, they are offset by time. Here, three decades (give or take a decade) of separation permits illusion and representation to coincide.

As he said, but didn’t paint, this illustration shows “a representation of [a world, only] in ourselves” and “the past that which is happening in the present,” and perhaps that’s a past that’s as much fantasy as memory.