The Critical Import of the Image: From Freud to Magritte


In the Interpretation of Dreams Freud asks how and if the dream, which is made of images, can express its connective structure, and in particular the negation. This can be made only by interpretation. This question represents the thread to examine the problem of the critical import of figurative arts, by comparing Adorno’s and Heidegger’s theories. According to Adorno, the artwork is mimesis: the capability to express negativity coincides with its autonegation, with its disappearing. For Heidegger, on the contrary, the artwork is first of all a work, and interpretation is the reconstruction of its genesis, or better, the understanding of it as temporal. In the last part of the text the problem of the relationship between negation and image is tackled discussing Magritte’s painting «Ceci n’est pas une pipe»: the structure of this painting (it is formed by images and words) makes it a rebus (like the dream, according to Freud), the deciphering of which carries a conceptual and interpretative work. Only this interpretation can account for the negation that it, as image, could otherwise not express.

Keywords: Adorno, Art, Critique, Freud, Image, Heidegger, Negation

[Full Article PDF]