Tick Tock Dada

by Kelvin Smith

As Dada’s centenary is celebrated, I remember my 1968 visit to Dada 1916-1966, a fiftieth anniversary exhibit, when it came to the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. When a museum warden took the glass cover off Man Ray’s metronome and started to wind it up, there was the twanging sound of a spring breaking. I said something to the uniformed custodian to the effect that he would be in for it for breaking a priceless work of art. Not at all, he assured me. When the exhibit had arrived in Liverpool, he said, the metronome had been broken. The one on display was a replacement that they got from what was then Liverpool’s main music shop, Rushworth and Dreaper.

This was an unforgettable object lesson in the meaning of Dada, now made more poignant as I am reminded that Man Ray’s work is entitled Objet à détruire.