The Photograph is violent.
—Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida
Who are you, who will look at these photographs, and by what right, and what will you do about it?
—James Agee, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men
In His Entry for Eye in Le Dictionnaire Critique (1929-30), Georges Bataille Refers to the Human Compulsion to Look as a response to a “blind thirst for blood,” triggered by the spectacle of extreme violence, including torture. But why, Bataille wonders, would someone's “absurd eyes be attracted, like a cloud of flies, to something so repugnant?” (19). He attributes to the human eye the cannibalistic disposition that comes from our “inexplicable acuity of horrors” and from the disturbing fascination that the eye itself exerts over our sensibility. The extreme seductiveness of the eye, Bataille hints, is probably “at the very edge of horror” (17). He connects the unstable edge that separates such contradictory responses with the idea of the eye as a critical tool, in which “critical” refers to the act of discerning and the act of cutting—as shown in the infamous opening of Tuis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí's film Un chien andalou (“An Andalusian Dog” ), when the eye of a young woman is sliced open by a razor in front of the camera. This violence against embodied (and sexualized) vision points not only to the notion of the eye as a misleading mimetic apparatus but also to the image of the eye as a hole or gap. The split eye is resignified as ocular replication, which, unexpectedly, triggers the proliferation of images and the loss of sight that come from seeing too much. Indeed, the swarm of eyes that populates Bataille's visual imagery grimly alludes to the compulsion to watch violent acts to the point of blindness.