Indexical Ambivalence with Kris Paulsen

Interfaces are boundaries and dividing lines. They are places where opposites touch: here and there, now and then, I and you, actual and virtual, true and false. Screens make for particularly troubling interfaces, for they enact a great leveling, and these opposites can become uncannily confused or indistinguishable. All things, all times, all places are reduced to the pulsing electronic mosaic of the raster grid. It might seem that the age of screens and digital would have killed the index, the semiotic register that once seemed to ground our ideas about materiality and truth, but instead it has revitalized and resurrected it. The index in the digital age is exposed as the ambivalent and dubious sign it has always been and is the operative tool for understanding mediated information, digital doubt, and experiences through interfaces. On the screen, the index is a forensic tool, not a guarantor of any truth.

Kris Paulsen is associate professor in the Department of History of Art and the Film Studies Program at The Ohio State University. She is a specialist in contemporary art with a focus on time-based and computational media. Her work traces the history of technology in the arts and the rhetoric of “new media” from photography to digital art, with a particular emphasis on telepresence and interface studies. The MIT Press published Paulsen’s first book, Here/There: Telepresence, Touch, and Art at the Interface, in 2017. Her current research project addresses the logics of quantification and algorithmic structures in contemporary art, culture, and activism.

Participating units at UC Berkeley: Berkeley Center for New Media; Arts, Technology and Culture Colloquium; History and Theory of New Media Lecture Series