Man Ray dated this work 1923, though it was transformed in 1932 when he substituted a photograph of the eye of Lee Miller—a photographer and the artist’s assistant, model, and lover—for the original eye he had used in what was then titled Object to Be Destroyed. At an exhibition in 1957, a group of protesting students took Man Ray at his word by destroying it; Man Ray eventually reconstructed and renamed the work Indestructible Object.
Gallery label from Dada, June 18–September 11, 2006.
Man Ray made this work in 1923, but transformed it a decade later, following a devastating breakup with Lee Miller—a fellow photographer who had also been his assistant, muse, and model. Distraught, he replaced the original eye with a cut-out from a photograph of Miller’s eye. Though he attached only a fragmented image of Miller to the metronome, the accompanying instructions suggest that for Man Ray, the object was an emotionally evocative portrait. The instructions invite us to create our own Indestructible Object, and then, quite radically, destroy it.
Cut out the eye from the 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.