Biopolitical Screens

From Leonardo

Biopolitical Screens

Image, Power, and the Neoliberal Brain

By Pasi Väliaho

An investigation of the aesthetics and politics of new visual media under twenty-first-century capitalism, from console games to virtual reality to video installation art.





An investigation of the aesthetics and politics of new visual media under twenty-first-century capitalism, from console games to virtual reality to video installation art.

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.


$40.00 X ISBN: 9780262027472 208 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 16 b&w illus.


  • Biopolitical Screens is an important contribution to the study of visual culture, and a thought-provoking ride for those who want to understand how our screen-based lifestyles are affecting our society and our very brains, and how can we resist the most pernicious effects of this process.

    Hans Rollman


  • Rooted in a view of images as animated and animistic life-forms (or viruses) in their own right, Valiaho has contributed one of the most trenchant and cohesive accounts available of our collective predicament. Biopolitical Screens has keyed in many of the most essential theoretical and historical vectors that still await their 'incredible mutation.'


  • Focusing on current issues and combining the most recent interdisciplinary tools to do so, this book is of the moment. It is required reading for anyone who wishes to understand the intersection of images, politics, and media in 21st-century culture.



  • 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


  • Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2015