On Purposefully Poor Images: Aesthetic Encounters with Alienation


  • Lucie Chateau Tilburg University




poor image, alienation, semiocapitalism, Internet Ugly, memes, aesthetics


This article introduces the concept of purposefully poor images. Building on Hito Steyerl’s theory of poor images as images that travel through networks and lose resolution and information, (2009) the theory of the purposefully poor image looks at the phenomenon of images that are produced with the intention of looking poor. These are images that draw attention to their own process of objectification by satirising their degradation. In showcasing the material markers of objectification, purposefully poor images allow for an aesthetic encounter with the experience of alienation. This article draws the autonomist Marxist approach of Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi (2009) to argue that their place within semiocapitalism allows purposefully poor images to draw attention to and overcome alienation from within capitalist relations. It is argued that purposefully poor images are a product of collective circulatory logics within digital capitalism, but also a powerful tool for aesthetically representing alienation.


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