W.J.T. Mitchell explores how images provoke their own self-analysis, creating a dialogue within the image itself. He calls this unique type of image “metapictures.” Metapictures refer to their own making, they are self-reflective as they attempt to understand themselves.
“Pictures reveal and know themselves, where they reflect on the intersections of visuality, language, and similitude, where they engage in speculation on their nature and history” -W.J.T Mitchell
Self-reflexivity thrives through self-nesting recursive structures, commonly related to “russian dolls,” where one element is nested within another layer of its same form. In other cases, to be self-reflexive is to draw in the viewer to question the structure of the image. In effect, our experiences as viewers often become an extension of that structure. Metapictures elicit a double vision between language and visual experience; they interrogate the authority of language over image. In René Magritte’s The Treachery of Images, the relationship between the visual and the verbal is inseparable; without acknowledging the visible element of the picture the text itself also disappears with it, denying it the ability to negate the image in the first place. The beauty of a metapicture is its unfaltering curiosity and playfulness towards perception.
“If I had written ‘this is a pipe’ under my picture, I would have been lying!”