More about Collective Invention
René Magritte brings out the animal lover in all of us with Collective Invention.
I don’t know about you guys but when I see this painting, I see a backwards, slightly pornographic mermaid and begin to wonder if I'm seeing clearly. This was Magritte’s intention, though. He created this mermaid-out-of-water to challenge the preconceived idea of mermaids in our minds, which - let’s face it - is the scene in The Little Mermaid when Ariel sings “Part of Your World” and her beautiful red hair is blowing in the sea breeze. I think it’s safe to say that this painting is nothing like The Little Mermaid.
In true Surrealist fashion, Magritte takes an everyday image and twists it into something disturbing and ominous. The fact that this "mermaid" is laying on the sand, looking lost and helpless makes us want to help her up and say “Go home mermaid, you’re drunk.” As I’m sure some of you have felt whilst intoxicated, this mermaid does not belong on land or in water and is just too naked for us to feel at all comfortable while looking at her. Seriously, why don’t you just get up and walk away?
So what’s the point of this anatomically confused mermaid, you ask? Well, it is perhaps because Magritte is pushing upon us something that he knows is fishy (sea what I did there?). Another point of the painting is perhaps to point out the absurdity of the male gaze. It acts as a parody of the fact that men are only interested in sex and even if women had the head of a fish, it just wouldn’t even matter. Who needs a real woman anyway, right? Arms are definitely overrated. One great misogynist once stated that this is “a practical man’s mermaid.” (wait, what?) I’m not exactly sure he considered how horribly that could go for him.
At the end of the day, our dear little messed up Ariel just can't be a part of our world, no matter how many princes she tries to kiss.