Man Ray brought his photograms, which he called rayographs, to life in Le retour a la raison (1923), and the idea that a film could be made without a camera would animate a later generation of direct filmmakers including Harry Smith, Len Lye, and Norman McLaren, who would paint, scratch, and draw directly on celluloid.
Even before Retour, however, Man Ray had sought to produce moving images without a camera. His Revolving Doors is a series of abstract, colorful, paper collages made between 1916 and 1917. The series comprised ten paper assemblages pasted on cardboard, each of which was mounted on a hinged, revolving structure that could be spun to “produce strange optical effects.” Revolving Doors registers partially as a Constructivist project, primarily through its geometric design, and partially as a Dadaist exercise via a series of playful, associative titles (“Dragonfly,” “Young Girl,” “Shadows,” “Long Distance”). Revolving Doors was also an early example of kinetic sculpture (Man Ray’s friend and collaborator Marcel Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel, made three years earlier, was likely the first such instance), and presaged Alexander Calder’s colorful mobiles by a decade.