Obelisk Art History
Man Ray

Indestructible Object

Indestructible Object, Man Ray
Indestructible Object, zoomed in
21.5 cmIndestructible Object scale comparison11 cm
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Indestructible Object is a Dadaist Photography Photographic Print created by Man Ray between 1923 and 1958. It lives at the Tate Modern in London. The image is used according to Educational Fair Use, and tagged Time and Sculpture. Source

Man Ray’s celebrated combination of a metronome with a photograph of an eye affixed with a paperclip to the swinging arm was first created in 1922-3 and titled “Object to be Destroyed” (Objet à détruire). As Man Ray later explained:

'I had a metronome in my place which I set going when I painted - like the pianist sets it going when he starts playing - its ticking noise regulated the frequency and number of my brushstrokes. The faster it went, the faster I painted; and if the metronome stopped then I knew I had painted too long, I was repeating myself, my painting was no good and I would destroy it. A painter needs an audience, so I also clipped a photo of an eye to the metronome’s swinging arm to create the illusion of being watched as I painted. One day I did not accept the metronome’s verdict, the silence was unbearable and since I had called it, with a certain premonition, Object of Destruction, I smashed it to pieces.'

In 1933 Man Ray remade the scupture, this time featuring the eye of Lee Miller — model, photographer, and his lover of three years who had abandoned him the year previous. Man Ray wrote instructions for the creation of the object this time titled “Lost Object":

“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 doing to the limit of endurance. With a hammer well-aimed, try to destroy the whole at a single blow.”

In 1958 Man Ray remakes the object yet again - under the title “Indestructible Object.”


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Reed Enger, "Indestructible Object," in Obelisk Art History, Published March 18, 2015; last modified July 08, 2018, http://arthistoryproject.com/artists/man-ray/indestructible-object/.

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