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baboon™s head is composed of a toy car of a late forties™ vintage.The hood of the
toy car serves as the snout of the simian, the fender as the mouth, the windshield
as the eyes and the roof of the car as the skullcap. One appropriate response to this
visual image is to take it as metaphorically suggesting that a baboon™s head is a car.
But as in the Magritte case, an equally satisfactory, alternative, symmetrical inter-
pretation is also ready at hand, namely, that cars of this period are monkeys™ heads.
Also, like Le Viol, Baboon and Young launches its metaphor by way of presenting
the viewer with a composite construction. The sculpture has been produced by
attaching or fusing a toy car to the body of a baboon at exactly the point in space
where we would expect the head of a baboon to be.The result of this act of fusion
or assemblage is a single, unified, spatiotemporally continuous entity that we read-
ily comprehend as at least a depiction of a baboon.
But the figure is also composite, and we need to notice the discrete elements “
such as the toy car “ that compose it. Moreover, the discrete elements that com-
pose it coexist in the same space “ they are homospatial “ insofar as they are inte-
gral features of a single entity, parts of a unified whole that coexist within the
unbroken contour, or perimeter, or boundary of a single unified entity.
3. If so far our examples have been what might be called face metaphors, Man
Ray™s 1924 Violon d™Ingres provides a case where the face plays no role in the
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metaphorical insight promoted by the image. In this famous photomontage, the
bare back of a model dominates the picture “ a bare back noteworthy for the sort
of rounded monumentality one recalls from Ingres™ well-known paintings of
harem odalisques. Undoubtedly, the allusion to Ingres is also enhanced by the kind
of turban the model wears. However, this is not merely a photograph of an odal-
isque. For superimposed on the model™s back are images of the kind of f-holes one
finds in cellos and violins.The presence of these f-holes encourages us to note that
the ways in which Ingres renders his models are cello-like, or, as the title of the
photograph would have it, violin-like.
The photomontage plus the title provoke the metaphorical insight that Ingres™
odalisques are violins. Also available is the alternative, symmetrical insight: violins
are odalisques, or violins are Ingres-esque odalisques. Undeniably, comprehending
the visual metaphor in any of the preceding ways probably depends on the viewer
having some acquaintance with Ingres™ masterpieces. One is prompted to mobi-
lize this knowledge by the title, though, of course, someone really savvy about art
history could most likely pick up the allusion to Ingres through the iconography
alone, even if the title were withheld from her.
Furthermore, I suspect that even where the viewer is ignorant of Ingres, the
viewer is still apt to derive metaphorical insight from the photomontage. These
metaphors will not make reference to Ingres, but might be expressed by: “A
woman™s body is a violin (or a cello)”; or,“A violin (or a cello) is a woman™s body.”
Moreover, a viewer may go on to note other than visual correspondences as a
result of the imagery. For, example, a viewer might entertain such thoughts as: a
violin (or cello) is to be caressed as one caresses a woman™s body; or, a woman™s
body may be played like a violin or a cello. Whether these metaphorical expan-
sions are offensive or sexist is not of immediate concern for this essay.5 However,
if one were to find Violon d™Ingres offensive or sexist, that would probably be best
explained in terms of the efficacy of visual metaphors as a means of expression.
4. Though the preceding visual metaphors have all pertained to at least one
animate category, it is easy to produce examples of visual images that are not
involved in illuminating features of animate beings. For instance, consider Claes
Oldenburg™s drawing Typewriter-pie.6
Here, of course, the title of the drawing itself is probably best understood as a
metaphor “ one secured by parataxis. However, even if the linguistic juxtaposition
of the pertinent terms is best glossed as a metaphor, the linguistic metaphor is in
no way as perspicuous as the visual metaphor. Indeed, this example is most likely
a case in which the visual metaphor clarifies the metaphor in the title of the work
rather than vice versa. For the point of this visual metaphor is far more easy to
negotiate than is the point of the verbal metaphor.
Looking at Oldenburg™s Typewriter-pie, we see how the typewriter carriage and
paper blend with the raised crust at the back of a piece of pie, while the down-
ward trapezoidal convergence of the keys of a typewriter are captured by the tri-
angular shape of a typical slice of pie. Oldenburg™s drawing produces the
metaphors that typewriters are slices of pies or that slices of pies are typewriters.
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Oldenburg™s drawing calls our attention to the visual ways in which, for instance,
typewriter carriages are crust-like and pie crusts are typewriter-carriage-like. In
fact, in the case of Oldenburg™s drawing it may even be accurate to say that Old-
enburg has created an unprecedented analogy between typewriters and pieces of
pie rather than simply taking note of commonly acknowledged correspondences
between the two.
Moreover, in the Oldenburg case, it should be stressed that the metaphorical rela-
tion in the drawing should not be misconstrued as an instance of the well-known
phenomenon of seeing-as. For in the example of Typewriter-pie, it is not the case that
one™s experience of the visual field shifts in such a way that one first sees a typewriter
and then one sees a pie, or vice versa. Rather, one sees a composite figure “ a visually
stable figure in which the typewriter element and the pie element are constantly dis-
cernible at the same time.This contrasts strongly with the infamous duck-rabbit fig-
ure where one first sees a duck and then a rabbit (or vice versa).
In the case of seeing-as, the duck element and the rabbit element are not
simultaneously present for perception. Rather, they become manifest sequentially.
However, in the case of Typewriter-pie, and in the cases of our previous visual
metaphors, the images do not reconfigure themselves. Our examples of visual
metaphors are best described as composite images: images in which elements call-
ing to mind different concepts or categories (such as that of the typewriter and
that of the slice of pie) are co-present in the visual array and are recognized to be
co-present simultaneously in a single, spatially homogeneous entity (this is the fea-
ture of visual metaphors that we have already called “homospatiality”).
Visual metaphors proffer unified visual arrays in which the terms of the
metaphor of both are perceptually co-present at once. Unlike paradigmatic cases of
seeing-as, exemplified by ambiguous switch-images, Typewriter-pie is an image in
which we simultaneously, rather than sequentially, apprehend features of typewriters
and pies in such a way that these two categories mutually inform each other.
5. Even if my examples up until now have been static, there is nevertheless no
reason to suppose that visual metaphors cannot be evolved or developed over time.
One example that immediately springs to mind in this regard is the identification
between the machine and Moloch in Fritz Lang™s 1926 silent film Metropolis.
In the third scene of this film, the son of the ruler of the vast, futuristic city
Metropolis ventures to the underground factory precincts. Here, huge engines,
manned by stupefied, regimented workers, run the city above.Through the point-
of-view of the son, we see a colossal machine. At its foot are two enormous tur-
bines.A giant stairway, flanked by rows of work stations, leads up to an open space
in which rotary jacks whirl furiously.
There is an explosion.The screen fills with smoke.As the smoke clears, we not
only see dead and wounded workers everywhere; we also see, again through the
son™s point-of-view, the machine transformed into Moloch, a spurious deity of the
Old Testament whose worship involved the sacrificial immolation of children.7
Cinematically, the image of Moloch has been superimposed over the machine.
The machine becomes a monster. The stairs become Moloch™s tongue and the
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cavern at the top of the stairs becomes Moloch™s maw. In one shot, the aforesaid
turbines are replaced by Moloch™s paws. But in subsequent shots we see the tur-
bines as turbines, figuring in the overall composition perhaps as modernist ver-
sions of gigantic votive candles.
We know that the monstrous face that has been superimposed over the
machine is Moloch because the son identifies it as such in an intertitle. But even
if the son had not specified the face in his vision as Moloch, we would neverthe-
less be able to recognize the superimposed visage as that of a monster.
The machine, or at least parts of the machine have been transformed into parts
of a monster, Moloch.At the same time, however, the machine is still recognizable
as a machine. The co-present monster elements and the machine elements
interanimate in such a way that we grasp the point of the image: that the machine
is Moloch or, more broadly, that such modern machines are man-eating monsters.
Whereas in most of our previous examples, the visual metaphors called atten-
tion to visual correspondences between their constituent elements “ correspon-
dences between, for example, the look of a typewriter and the look of a slice of pie
“ the machine/Moloch example, though motivated by blending features of
machines and monsters, is predicated on calling attention to features of machines
(and modern industry) over and above the simply visual (just as Violin d™Ingres per-
haps alerts us to the not simply visual idea of caressing a violin).
The machine/Moloch image invites us to map part of what we know about
Moloch onto the machines of modern industry.The concept of Moloch is, so to
say, supposed to serve as a template that we lay over the concept or category of
modern machines in order to focus on or attend to certain pertinent properties of
modern machinery. And, commonplace associations that pertain to Moloch are
tested with respect to modern machinery in order to see whether those com-
monplace associations can be transferred from their source domain (Moloch) in
such a way that they pertain to modern machinery (what we may call the target
domain of the metaphor).8
Of course, the obvious interpretation of the machine/Moloch image is that
the machines of modern industry devour workers just like man-eating monsters;
or, workers are sacrificed to modern machines as children were sacrificed to cruel
gods like Moloch.Through the superimposition of Moloch on the machine, the
film director Fritz Lang alerts the viewer to such putative properties of modern
machines as that they are consumers of workers, construed as human sacrifices.
This putative property of modern machinery, of course, is not a visual property,
strictly speaking, though we are alerted to it by means of the visual fusion of elements
of the machine and Moloch. Rather, we might call this putative property a thematic
property of the machine. Thus, the machine/Moloch image indicates that visual
metaphors need not pertain only to visual correspondences between their respective
source domains and target domains.Visual metaphors can also be deployed in such a
way that they call attention to non-visual, thematic properties of things.
The machine/Moloch image differs from our previous examples in several
noteworthy respects. It is developed over time through superimposition (and nar-
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METAPHOR


ration), whereas our earlier examples were literally static, unchanging images.The
machine/Moloch image also calls our attention to more than merely visual prop-
erties of modern machines, whereas most of our earlier examples mapped visual
aspects of the source domain (such as the curvaceousness of violins) onto the tar-
get domain (odalisques).
Furthermore “ and this is a point to which we will need to return “ the
machine/Moloch image does not seem easily susceptible to alternative, symmetri-
cal interpretations. For while it makes sense to comprehend the visual metaphor
as assimilating machines to Moloch, it does not seem to the point to take the
imagery to be inviting the thought that either Moloch is a machine or that mon-
sters are machines. So, whereas with Le Viol it seems unproblematic to regard the
face as alternatively the source domain (“the body is the face”) and the target
domain (“the face is a body”), it appears scarcely intelligible in the context of
Metropolis to flip the source domain and the target domain “ that is, the direction
of mapping in the machine/Moloch metaphor is asymmetrical (“the machine is
Moloch” works;“Moloch is a machine,” in context, does not work).
However, despite these differences between the example from Metropolis and
earlier examples, the machine/Moloch image still counts as a visual metaphor
insofar as it depends upon what has been called homospatiality. The
machine/Moloch metaphor proceeds by situating recognizably disparate elements
(machine elements and Moloch elements) in the same space “ in the same
bounded, physical entity “ in such a way (to be explained later) that these elements
call to mind different categories or concepts that we interanimate by mapping
part of what we associate with one of the categories onto the other category.
In this case, the precise technical device that is employed by the filmmaker in
order to secure homospatiality is superimposition.This is also a technique that is
likewise available literally in photography. A comparable technology in video is
available through what is called image-processing. Moreover, since image-process-
ing is a particularly easy technique to execute in video, we tend to find a great
many visual metaphors in video art. Indeed, some video artists have even main-
tained that metaphor is the most appropriate “ that is, medium-specific “ line of
aesthetic development in the video medium.9 But whether such a predilection
can be sustained theoretically, it is undeniably the case that due to the ease with
which the technology of image-processing facilitates superimposition, visual
metaphors occur with pronounced frequency in video.This can be observed read-
ily by attending not only to the video works of gallery artists but also by attend-
ing to the special effects in the more popular tapes on MTV that often project
visual metaphors.And this tendency toward the use of visual metaphor is likely to
increase dramatically as this sort of video becomes even more influential.
6. Although all the preceding examples have been drawn from the art of the
twentieth century, there are myriad examples of visual metaphors from earlier
periods. Many instances of visual metaphors can be found in the work of the six-
teenth-century painter Hieronymus Bosch. In the central panel of The Temptations
of Saint Anthony, next to the figure with the funnel on its head, there is an image
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of a priest, garbed in sacred vestments, reading a missal or bible. His face is that of
a pig, although he also wears spectacles, has human ears, and sports a tonsure.
This is a composite image. Clearly it invites us to think of priests in terms of
pigs. It insinuates the anticlerical thought that [some] priests are pigs. In the
medieval bestiary, pigs could be thought of as animals whose most salient property
was that they were devoted solely to the selfish pursuit of their own happiness;10
so by fusing priest-elements and pig-elements in this painting, Bosch polemically
focuses our attention on the piggish properties of the priestly estate.
In this image, the pig-elements function as the source domain and the priest-
element function as the target domain.That is, we map part of what we know or
associated with pigs onto priests. We use what we know about pig-properties in
order to pick out and focus upon putative priest-properties.The homospatiality of
the pig-elements and the priest-elements in the same bounded figure invites
interaction between the categories or concepts that these elements call to mind in
such a way that what we think of pigs, including commonplace associations, serves
as the means for organizing our thoughts about priests by selecting putatively cor-
responding properties of priests for emphasis.That is, we use information that we
possess about the category of pigs to focus selectively on certain putative proper-
ties of priests.11

From my descriptions of the preceding examples, it should be clear why I call
them visual metaphors. Just as verbal metaphors most frequently intimate some
form of identity or at least intersection between the categories they mobilize “
“Man is a wolf unto man” “ the previous cases employ homospatiality, which
visually incorporates disparate elements (calling to mind disparate categories) in
one, spatially bounded, homogeneous entity. Elements are fused in a composite,
but nevertheless self-identifiable construct, thereby visually indicating that these
are elements of the self-same entity.
The elements are features of the same thing in virtue of inhabiting the same spa-
tial coordinates “ in virtue of inhering in the same body “ that is, within the same
continuous contour, or perimeter or boundary.The elements fused or superimposed
or otherwise attached are recognizable as belonging to the same unified entity.
Homospatiality, in this sense, is a necessary condition for visual metaphor. It serves
to link disparate categories in visual metaphors physically in ways that are function-
ally equivalent to the ways that disparate categories are linked grammatically in ver-
bal metaphor. Where verbal metaphors assert or appear to assert identity between
distinct, nonconverging categories, visual metaphors, by means of homospatiality,
intimate categorical identity by presenting nonconverging categories as applying to
the same entity.Thus, the way in which homospatiality in our examples functions as
a visual equivalent to asserted identity in verbal metaphor provides one reason to sus-
pect that certain visual images can be metaphors.
Although in virtue of homospatiality, the visual metaphor is projected via a
recognizably unified entity, certain of the elements that comprise the visual
metaphor come from discernible disparate categories, categories that are not
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physically compossible. Baboons cannot physically have cars for heads; navels can-
not function as noses; priests cannot be pigs, nor machines monsters.And women
cannot have f-holes in their backs. Commentators agree that verbal metaphors are
generally either false or not literally true.12 Visual metaphors cannot be false or lit-
erally not true since they are not propositional. However, visual metaphors do
possess a feature that roughly corresponds to falsity or apparent falsity. Namely,
visual metaphors identify or link disparate categories by means of homospatiality
that are not physically compossible in the sorts of entities they propose.Whereas
verbal metaphors are generally false or apparently false, visual metaphors portray
homospatial entities that are composed of elements that are not generally physi-
cally compossible.
Although more needs to be said about this, a further requirement or necessary
condition for a visual image to count as a visual metaphor, then, is that, in addition to

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