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Le mirage from Objects of My Affection
Le mirage is one of the photographs from Objects of My Affection. It documents a construction that Man Ray made from repurposed mechanical components: "Transplanted to the home," states a typescript caption mounted on illustration board alongside the photograph, which may suggest that an earlier version of this piece was meant for the gallery or public exhibition. It is a peculiar mechanism, mounted off-center on a laminated plywood base, hanging on the wall like a clock. In this photograph, Man Ray located the plywood precisely within the frame, so that the near edge and far shadow reveal the depth of his construction. Projecting from the wooden base at a right angle is a dark cylindrical post, apparently mounted in a set of ball bearings in a race, so that the axle can swing freely. A bicycle mirror exists in a deep, complex space. Man Ray traced and painted the mirror's shadow on the base, so that if it were to swing, its resting position would appear constant. A string is tied to a screw eye in the end of the axle, from which a painted cube or die, with a different number on each face, hangs before the mirror. When the entire apparatus moves, the cube will twist and the mirror will reflect different numbers to the viewer. Also mounted on the screw eye is a pair of doll's eyes. Hanging on a short cord from the screw eye is a tiny hemispherical bell--a toy sleigh bell or jingle bell--with a detached clapper inside. If Man Ray's machine were set in motion by swinging the pendulous mirror, the numbered cube would twist and the eyes would jingle together and glance about unfocusedly, while the tiny bell below might sound an intermittent tinkle. Even at rest, however, the construction suggests to the viewer the potential effects of motion, a sense of expanding or contracting space, of gravity and change itself. The implied motion also suggests a passage of time: the duration of the imagined swinging and jiggling.
from Acton, A History of Photography at the University of Notre Dame: Twentieth Century (Notre Dame, 2019)