Rosalind Krauss
[Writer, critic, and historian, b. 1941, Washington, D.C., lives in New York.]

 The frame announces that between the part of reality that was cut away and this part there is a difference; and that this segment which the frame frames is an example of nature-as-representation, nature-as-sign. 
 To convulse reality from within, to demonstrate it as fractured spacing, became the collective result of all that vast range of techniques to which surrealist photographers resorted and which they understood as producing the characteristics of the sign. 
 It is the order of the natural world that imprints itself on the photographic emulsion and subsequently on the photographic print. This quality of transfer or trace gives to the photograph its documentary status, it undeniable veracity. But at the same time this veracity is beyond the reach of those possible internal adjustments which are the necessary property of language. The connective tissue binding the objects contained by the photograph is that of the world itself, rather than that of a cultural system. 
 The photographic record is part of the point of... family gatherings; it is an agent in the collective fantasy of family cohesion, and in that sense the camera is a projective tool, part of the theater that the family constructs to convince itself that it is together and whole. 
 If we are to generalize the aesthetic of surrealism, the concept of Convulsive Beauty is at the core of that aesthetic: reducing to an experience of reality transformed into a representation. Surreality is, we could say, nature convulsed into a kind of writing. The special access that photography has to this experience is its privileged connection to the real. 
 Surrealist photography does not admit of the natural, as opposed to the cultural or made. And so all of what it looks at is seen as if already, and always, constructed, through a strange transposition of this thing into a different register. We see the object by means of an act of displacement, defined through a gesture of substitution. 
 Surely one of the most grotesque, but revealing suggestions about the possible applications of photography was the notion, breached in the 1890s, of the ‘post-mortem photograph.’ Breathtaking in its loony rationality, it involved the reprinting of a photograph taken during life by using the crematorial ashes of the departed sitter. They will adhere to the part exposed to light and a portrait is obtained composed entirely of the person it represents. 
 [Photography's] power is as an index and its meaning resides in those mode of identification which are associated with the Imaginary. 
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