Paul Catanese, Hybrid Media Artist

Visible from Space
2010 - Present | Multi-Modal Artwork





I was invited to be the featured artist for Leonardo Electronic Almanac's Digital Media Exhibition Platform which launched in the September of 2010. The exhibition program delivers daily artworks via a wide network of social media platforms, for which I created a series of thirty images. Additionally, Vince Dziekan and Lanfranco Aceti, from the curatorial team, conducted an online, text-based interview with me.



...you mention paraconsistent logics (that being, to attempt to deal with contradictions in a logical and systematic way). I see this reflected in the images you've produced.

Paul Catanese: Yes – building systems is a large part of my work, and definitely a large part about how I approached working on this exhibition for LEA. As soon as I started thinking about the "30-ness" of the series, I wanted to determine what the best structures were that would resonate with the details in the images. In this work, I am exploring multiple open-ended visual narratives and there were questions about whether the 30 in the series would be linear, chronological, or as it ended up, structured in a less-definable manner. I kept thinking about series of 5 and series of 6, or twinned series – a series of 5 running through a series of 6, or perhaps if one was to imagine two rectangles partially intersecting, there might be an area where a series of 3 and a series of 4 could fit into a meta-series of 5, and another that fits into a meta-series of 6. I was playing games with the alphabet and with altered alphabets to assist me with determining how to arrange time and space. This type of game-playing with structure is creative exercise; its a way to assist me in viewing the materials from the desert in new ways. Beyond the meta-structures, what guided me in creating this series of images were a number of considerations regarding the notion of directionality of time, bifurcation, optics and gravity, as well as less determinable concepts such as asemic writing, ceromancy, and Otto's notion of the numinous.

Vince Dziekan: The desert has an incredibly long tradition as a subject which has lent itself to the widest range of interpretations. Mystical. Sacred. Allegorical. Moral. Romantic. In a sense, the depth, richness and variability of these different interpretations play themselves out in stark relief against the desert's unifying visual emptiness. While the aesthetics are markedly different, I'm


drawn to compare your project with America photographer Richard Misrach's desert 'cantos' – which also employ rigorous structural principles. Through an ironic counterpoising of form and content, the impossibly beautiful mirage-like surface of Misrach's photographs contemplate the transformation of the desert from sublime into a site that reflects militarism and environmental violence. The desert offers itself as something of a blank canvas, a surface that we – individually or collectively – can project our imagination and fears, desires and paranoias onto. Through your process, I'm wondering what the desert has revealed to you?

Paul Catanese: The Revelation of the Desert. If one were to attribute agency to the land; the will of the desert could be encapsulated in its attempt to harm. The relentlessness of the land itself, the chemical desert, alluvial fans, calcrete, dust, desiccation, and solitude might first indicate a depth of fatality. But this is only a veneer. Rivers flow underground. Like the ocean, it teems with life; it is a site for contemplating the finite and the infinite.

The desert puzzles me. Every moment, the challenge of survival must be considered. It makes immediate the relation to the body, and therefore the mind. Synapses sizzle like ink on a brayer, the nervous system floods the ears with a high pitched whine that modulates the wind. Dust devils travel in packs, roam the valleys, rearranging bric-a-brac.

The desert can yawn for a thousand years.

We've talked of my experiences, and they remain distilled in me: Dry heat. Silence. Darkness. The Milky Way. Discerning the sound of a fly 30 feet away from me, crystal clear. Sunrise on the valley floor. Toads, rattlesnakes. Hydrating. Long, slow hikes through rubbish. Rabbits. Early Dawns. Rattling roof. Dust devils that...



Research and development for 'Visible from Space' was supported by a month-long residency in June 2010 at the Goldwell Open Air Museum, just outside of Death Valley. Additionally, this project was chosen by the Leonardo Electronic Almanac to inaugaurate their Digital Media Exhibition Platform in 2010. Continued development provided by Anchor Graphics, a program of the Art+Design department at Columbia College Chicago, the College Art Association Services to Artists Commitee and Video in the Built Environment’s scan2Go exhibition, as well as the Kasa Gallery at Sabanci University in Istanbul.
The Central School Project in Bisbee, Arizona has supported devleopment of this project through extended Artist Residencies in 2009 and 2013.