Undergraduate Thesis 
( In Progress )

    In her essay, In Defense of the Poor Image, Hito Steyerl describes a de facto hierarchy of images: one where high resolution, in-focus images are seen as richer in value, more true to life compared to the low resolution, blurry, distorted “poor” images. The poor image is a substandard copy of reality, “a ghost of an image, a preview, a thumbnail, an errant idea, an itinerant image distributed for free, squeezed through slow digital connections, compressed, reproduced, ripped, remixed, as well as copied and pasted into other channels of distribution”. Steryl pushes against this hierarchy, asserting that the low quality of the poor image is actually a testament to the many hands it has passed through, making it no less an embodiment of reality than the high quality image.


    Heavily inspired by Hito Steryerl’s In Defense of the Poor Image and Rosa Menkman’s A Vernacular of File Formats, I began this project by writing a program to convert digital images from my family archive from jpeg to webp and back to jpeg three thousand times, saving every conversion as one frame in a video. With every conversion, a small amount of data is lost due to the lossy file format compression algorithm, typically in areas of high visual similarity where pixel values will be approximated based on their neighbors. In this way, the digital image becomes an analog for memory, with every instance of accessing the memory-image irreversibly changing it in some way. Both memory and digital images become a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of reality, with the “original” forever lost to time.

But loss is not necessarily only negative. I think there is much beauty in what remains and what we make of memory in the process of losing. Memory is as much a reflection of the past as it is a creation of the present. In the second half of this year-long project, I painted and screen printed from degraded images of my childhood home. 

These works are meditations on memory through simultaneously degradative and generative processes. They are an attempt to understand myself in the context of an incomplete, decaying family archive. They are a metabolization of my fear of loss, of losing memories of people and places no longer here. 

They are my (incomplete) answers to the question “if loss of memory is inevitable, how can we make from what remains?” 

CS fair poster.jpg
CS490 Write Up.pdf