Metaphysics & Magritte
by Taliesin Thomas, 1st year IDSVA student
Our January 2014 NYC residency was a delightful blur. As a “Septemberist” to the IDSVA program, it was my first experience meeting the other members of my cohort outside of the digital sphere, which was a lively experience full of artistry and honesty.
“The False Mirror” (1928) René Magritte
Then, of course, there was the marvelous breadth of art to behold at the museums while the class meet-and-greet continued in real time. Our schedule for the week included several afternoon museum visits, and our trip to MoMA to see the René Magritte “The Mystery of the Ordinary” exhibition stands out as the most memorable among these jaunts. We have all, supposedly, encountered Magritte’s surrealist dreamscapes at one time or another, but never has a show pulled together so many masterful works by the artist in a single viewing.
The familiar bizarreness of this exhibit sincerely mirrored the feeling that I have come to embrace while advancing down the path of deeper philosophical inquiry, this notion of “realitylessness” as it relates to theory, reason and the intelligible world. As I surveyed the paintings, one piece in particular resonated such sentiment: “The False Mirror” (1928). The iconic image of a single eye peering forth with nebulae floating in the background is among Magritte’s best-known works, and I was reminded of how Socrates is said to have denied the traditional gods, for which he substituted the air and the clouds. This simple composition echoed the mystery of the metaphysical abyss of infinite possibility. I stood, for a moment, within the chasm of that optical magic trick, and the void swallowed me whole. And then it was gone, a transient vapor transposing into its next illusory incarnation. Just then I turned to see a classmate, and “reality” was there to meet me like an old friend. The mystical philosophical journey has long been, and will long be, if we continue to seek the abundant “timelessness” of this life.