Image, Power, and the Neoliberal Brain
By Pasi VÄliaho
The MIT Press
A Leonardo Book
16 b&w illus.
In Biopolitical Screens, Pasi Väliaho charts and conceptualizes the imagery that composes our affective and conceptual reality under twenty-first-century capitalism. Väliaho investigates the role screen media play in the networks that today harness human minds and bodies—the ways that images animated on console game platforms, virtual reality technologies, and computer screens capture human potential by plugging it into arrangements of finance, war, and the consumption of entertainment. Drawing on current neuroscience and political and economic thought, Väliaho argues that these images work to shape the atomistic individuals who populate the neoliberal world of accumulation and war.
Väliaho bases his argument on a broad notion of the image as something both visible and sayable, detectable in various screen platforms but also in scientific perception and theoretical ideas. After laying out the conceptual foundations of the book, Väliaho offers focused and detailed investigations of the current visual economy. He considers the imagery of first-person shooter video games as tools of “neuropower”; explores the design and construction of virtual reality technologies to treat post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan; and examines three instances of video installation art that have the power to disrupt the dominant regime of sensibility rather than reinforce it.
About the Author
Pasi Väliaho is Senior Lecturer in Film and Screen Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is the author of Mapping the Moving Image: Gesture, Thought, and Cinema circa 1900.
“Cool down your cortex and fire up your imagination! That, in short, is what Pasi Väliaho suggests in this bracing analysis of how the neoliberal image economy has penetrated to humans' reptilian core, and how in turn our brains—almost independently of the thinking 'us'—might fight back, in collective acts of creative individuation. Väliaho impressively synthesizes recent research across neuroscience, philosophy, anthropology, and media art in this powerful and crisply written book.”
—Laura U. Marks, School for the Contemporary Arts, Simon Fraser University; author of The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment, and the Senses; Touch: Sensuous Theory and Multisensory Media; and Enfoldment and Infinity: An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art
“In a concise, informed, and engagingly written way, Pasi Väliaho's Biopolitical Screens presents a critical account of how images curate our minds and have merged with the neural tissues of our brains. A powerful and timely analysis of the neoliberal and military logic that operates our media and influences our everyday life. Highly recommended reading for anyone interested in the politics (and counter-politics) of digital screen culture.”
—Patricia Pisters, Professor of Film and Media Studies, Department of Media Studies, University of Amsterdam; author of The Neuro-Image: A Deleuzian Film-Philosophy of Digital Screen Culture
“Biopolitical Screens is among the most penetrating accounts of visual culture that I have read in recent years. Building upon the emergent theoretical model of images as life-forms rather than inert representations, it builds an encyclopedic picture of the way we live now. Neuroscience, video games, neoliberal economics, and contemporary resource wars are arrayed in a critical montage sustained by explorations of the work of emerging artists in a variety of media and political situations. An exciting and essential work for anyone who wants to see the present clearly, along with its usable pasts and probable futures.”
—W. J. T. Mitchell, author of Seeing Through Race