by Kris Paulsen. MIT Press, March 2017. 264 p. ill. ISBN 9780262035729 (h/c), $40.00.

Reviewed July 2017
Ann C. Kearney, Collections Conservator, Alice Hastings Murphy Preservation Department, University Libraries University at Albany—State University of New York,

paulsenHere/There: Telepresence, Touch, and Art at the Interface offers a nuanced presentation on telepresence and human connection by Ohio State University’s Assistant Professor of Art Kris Paulsen. This study examines the history of screen media, explores its theories, and suggests new pathways for interdisciplinary cooperation.

While the general topic of media studies appeals to a wide audience, this particular treatment is clearly directed to scholarly readers.

In her introduction, Paulsen states her premise:

The central claim of this book is that a critical and retrospective look at artworks ranging from the earliest artists’ videos to the most technologically advanced interventions into today’s military robotic technology offers a way of understanding the rapid mediatization and remediation of contemporary sensory experience, and suggest how we might preserve embodied social and political relationships to mediated people, places and things in the face of such technological extension.

The author, whose academic background includes the study of Art Semiotics and Rhetoric, is well-equipped to guide the reader through this formidable and rarified journey. She sets the stage for this undertaking by offering introductions to Charles Sanders Peirce’s theories on indexing and to Roland Barthes’s innovative views on photography. She rapidly and expertly shifts between theory and example to establish a comprehensive historical context in a half-dozen brief, densely-packed chapters. Paulsen uses this context as a lens to view a wide range of media cultures, referencing and reconsidering the work of dozens of contemporary artists as well as art theorists.

While Paulsen clearly demonstrates her claim, her concepts and, particularly her lengthy sentence structures, are academically rigorous. These qualities make the work most easily accessed by a focused, highly-educated readership.

This volume offers a compelling premise, meticulous presentation, and thorough development. Its most significant contribution to media studies is the use of these components to demonstrate the interconnection of technology, art, and the humanities and emphasizing the importance of fostering this connection to promote growth in the field.

It is a slim, hard-cover publication, well-constructed and designed, featuring numerous black and white illustrations.

Here/There Telepresence, Touch, and Art at the Interface is very highly recommended for purchase by academic libraries supporting graduate programs in a wide range of fields, including visual studies, art history, history of photography, and visual knowledge management.

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