Man Ray, Indestructible Object, 1923/63 image via Francis M. Naumann  © Man Ray Trust

Man Ray, Indestructible Object, 1923/63 image via Francis M. Naumann © Man Ray Trust

Man Ray created the readymade Object to be Destroyed in 1923. Why he titled it so is a mystery to me other than it’s an offbeat Dada concept of time. The eye on the metronome was to watch him in his studio as he painted.

After Lee Miller left him in 1932 he made a new version called Object of Destruction, replacing the original eye with her eye (see previous post.) An ink drawing of the piece was published in the journal This Quarter with the following instructions:

Man Ray, Object of Destruction  © The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Man Ray, Object of Destruction © The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Cut out the eye from a photograph of one who has been loved but is seen no more. Attach the eye to the pendulum of a metronome and regulate the weight to suit the tempo desired. Keep going to the limit of endurance. With a hammer well-aimed, try to destroy the whole at a single blow.

The 1923 Object to be Destroyed was destroyed with a single blow in 1957, not by a hammer well-aimed but by gun shot. The Jarivistes, a group of art-movement protesters, stole the one-eyed metronome on display at Exhibition Dada. Man Ray ran after the thieves crying,”You’re stealing my painting!”

The object was set down on a Paris street corner not too far from the gallery. “Why shoot it?” pondered a police official after the fact.

The Jarivistes readily announced that they “are not surrealists but sure realists,” not a movement but “motion itself, perpetual motion.” To their objections to Dada, Man Ray wearily noted:  “These things were done 40 years ago. You are demonstrating against history.” — TIME Magazine, April 1957

When he filed a claim with the insurance company, the agent suggested he buy an unlimited supply of metronomes with his reimbursement. Man Ray replied not only would he do just that, but he would retitle the work Indestructible Object. 

♠♠♠

NOTE: The original eye may belong to the celebrated Kiki de Montparnasse (Alice Prin), his lover, model, and muse during most of the 1920s.

 

 

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