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Surrealist Objects and Assemblage

Discover how everyday objects, arranged unexpectedly, became triggers for unlocking the subconscious mind.

Indestructible Object (or Object to Be Destroyed)

Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitzky)
(American, 1890–1976)

1964. Metronome with cutout photograph of eye on pendulum, 8 7/8 x 4 3/8 x 4 5/8" (22.5 x 11 x 11.6 cm)

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.

One who uses a camera or other means to produce photographs.

An image, especially a positive print, recorded by exposing a photosensitive surface to light, especially in a camera.

The guiding spirit that is thought to inspire artists; source of genius or inspiration (noun).

A representation of a particular individual, usually intended to capture their likeness or personality.

1. A detailed three-dimensional representation, usually built to scale, of another, often larger, object. In architecture, a three-dimensional representation of a concept or design for a building; 2. A person who poses for an artist.

What’s in a name?
Man Ray made several versions of this assemblage, originally titled Object to Be Destroyed. The title was interpreted quite literally, in 1957, when a crowd of students protesting a Dada exhibition in Paris stole one of these objects. When Man Ray filed a claim with his insurance company, the agent suggested he buy an unlimited supply of metronomes with his reimbursement money. Man Ray replied that not only would he do just that, he would also retitle the work Indestructible Object.