Louis CK / Man Ray

So here’s what I think: I think you should not get an abortion unless you need one. In which case, you better get one…and hurry.

Louis CK’s “2017” starts with his standpoint on abortion and just gets more fun-loving from there! His first few minutes of this special pinpoint the reasons why women should have the right to choose: living is not that important, and women decide who lives or dies. He brings the entirety of human existence into solidarity by defining us simply as people who decided not to kill ourselves, a rather uplifting message delivered in a slew of “screw it” rhetoric.

This special came out earlier this year, but it was the first show that came to mind when I decided to write about a comedy special. Would you like to know why I picked it? I picked “2017” because it is 2017. How do I find these connections?! Look at a calendar, dummy.

CK points out how arbitrary yet astounding this number is:

The Christians won everything. A long time ago. If you don’t believe me, let me ask you a question: What year is it? I mean, come on. What year is it according to the entire human race? And why?…It’s 2017. What is that? That’s a number. It’s not just any number. It must be a very important number. ‘Cause we’re counting to it in unison as a species.

This quote comes after he explains how he teaches his daughters about religion. All religions are equal, but the Christians are the main one. “They won big time, and a long time ago.” Christ died 2,017 years ago and we’ve all be counting “Jesus + 2, Jesus + 3, Jesus + 4…” ever since. Even stranger, before Christ’s birth, we count “Jesus – 1.” As an art history student I had to memorize dates as far back as the Woman of Willendorf from 28,000 B.C.E. Personally, writing B.C.E (Before Common Era) just causes my mind to go “Oh, the way to avoid saying Christ when we’re talking about old stuff.” Of course, I still use B.C.E. because it is a scholarly convention. I mean, who am I? You’re 75 year old archaeology professor with a bow tie and elbow patches? Go to my about page and you’ll see that I’m not that person, but wish I was wearing that kind of jacket.

Back to time. It’s something that shocks us out of bed in the morning if we hit snooze too much and its unforgiving forward movement haunts us after age 25. Time motivates us. Time destroys us. But what if we could destroy time?

Man Ray experimented with this question when he created “Object to be Destroyed.” This piece consisted of a picture of an eye attached to the weight of a metronome. A metronome keeps time for a musician; for an artist like Man Ray, it observes. Ray believed that a painter needs an audience, so in order for him to work more effectively he created Object to be Destroyed. Its unforgiving tick created a motivating artistic progression; that is, until his heart was broken by Lee Miller, his student, lover, and muse. He worshipped Miller. Honestly, I kind of worship Miller too. She lived an adventurous life that any person now would dream of, and she did it in the 1920s forward. Plus she is a prominent modern photographer who worked as a correspondent for Vogue during WWII. So when this badass woman left Ray for someone else, he replaced the eye on “Object to be Destroyed” with her eye and wrote a set of instructions:

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.

Man Ray, Indestructible Object, 1965 (replica of 1923 original), Philadelphia Museum of Art (photo by author)

With these words, an object that kept an artist moving forward in his work pivots into a question of the longevity of love. CK hates it when people congratulate couples on being together for a significant amount of their lives. They might be together for that long, but they are not in love for that long. He created a handy equation for the phenomenon:

Love plus time minus distance equals hate. That’s just the way it goes. I’m not saying don’t do it. You should do it. It’s the best thing. It’s the best part of life, love is. But don’t be greedy and expect it to last. Don’t be amazed that a butterfly died ’cause you shot it in the face. Just fall in love, make a fucking mess. It goes shitty, you don’t realize it until too late. And then you cry a lot and move on. It’s the best part of life.

After you wind up a metronome, at say an allegro 140 beats per minute, its tempo is seemingly unflinching. Its “tick tick tick” keeps your hands moving; at first it may seem too fast, then your muscles get used to the beat and you can keep the same movement for the duration of your song. Even after you stop, the tick keeps on ticking. Even after Ray’s lover left, his heart kept on beating for her. Sure, you can smash that love with a hammer, just destroy every bit of it and walk away. That’s the Ray method. But the CK method, that’s a relationship that endures. A metronome can click away at the same tempo for seemingly forever, but in reality the wind-up eventually winds down, then all that is left is an echo stuck in our heads.

“Object to be Destroyed” was officially destroyed in 1953 by a group of anti-Dada art students at a Paris exhibition. After the incident, Ray created a series of copies of the original titled “Indestructible Object” (1964). The copy can be found in museums all around the world. At the Philadelphia Museum of Art, you can find it in Gallery 169: Surrealism.

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