A Shabby Sublimity

Representing the Capitalist Sublime
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This visual essay explores the concept of the 'Capitalist Sublime', analysing how contemporary imagery seeks to invoke feelings of awe and power in relation to capitalism. Drawing from Longinus and Edmund Burke's definitions of the sublime, the essay delves into the allure of power and overwhelming awe that capitalism attempts to evoke through its imagery. Examples range from high-art sculptures like Jeff Koons' "New Hoover Celebrity IV" to vast cityscapes and monumental architecture, such as the Atlantis hotel in Du- bai and aircraft carriers. The essay further examines the works of photographer Edward Burtynsky, whose large-scale images of industrial landscapes align with the tradition of the sublime while also reflecting the triumph of capitalism. Advertisements, luxury goods, and celebrity endorsements are scrutinized for their attempts to capture the sublime in promoting brands and consumerism. Ultimately, the essay reflects on how these attempts at the capitalist sublime may often veer into the ridiculous, underscoring the contrast between their intention and true sublimity.

John Stathatos - Γιάννης Σταθάτος
Design Arts Culture
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