Paul Catanese, Hybrid Media Artist

Visible from Space
2009 - 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.

Lanfranco Aceti: I would like to actually continue along the line of this topic that you and Vince [Dziekan] have been discussing – the relationship with the landscape as a complex interaction beyond the anthropocentric definition of psycho-geography and traditional representations of alterity. I am curious to know how you framed your relationship to the ’intuitive’ and ’aesthetic’ colloquialism with the desert... Was it a planned structure– or something that you just let flourish inspired by the pre-existing discourse and already existing semiotic signs of the landscape?

Paul Catanese: Hi Lanfranco – this is an interesting question. I've been thinking quite a bit about this, especially as I have come to find that residencies are an important part of my art practice, playing a valuable role, especially in providing time to insert oneself in a new context. It is often very tempting to plan, or even perhaps over-plan the experience. That being said, it has continually been the organic development of ideas that indeed flourish within a given space or location that are the most rewarding for me as an artist.

So, to a certain degree, I did spend a great deal of time planning for my experiments with rockets, balloons, cameras, etc. but I had not entirely considered the role that desert colloquialism would have. This is largely due to the fact that I wasn't entirely certain how much interaction with other individuals I would have. At first, I had visions of being entirely cut off from the world, but as it turned out, the human connections at the residency and at the town where I was staying began to play a pivotal role in providing a more tempered experience. I did imagine that there would be aspects of living in the desert that would be unexpected that would shift the focus or dimensions of experiments, but had not considered that would erupt from human interaction. It is possible to consider the harshness of the chemical desert and then view

that harshness amplified and compounded by secrecy, industrialism, and paranoia and expect that those characteristics to be the only fruit of the vastness. Earlier, when Vince [Dziekan] referred to the notion of the desert as a blank canvas, a surface for projection (literally and conceptually), I recognized that attuning my body and mind to the rhythms of living at that location are as much a part of the work as the images themselves.

I was at Goldwell long enough to begin to acclimate to the remoteness of the location. There was a general store, gas station, a lunch counter, a saloon, and very little else. When the groceries ran out on Monday, you would have to wait until the truck showed up on Wednesday – or drive ninety miles to the next closest supplies. In attuning to these new rhythms, I began to find that there is a relativism to remoteness. On excursions from the home base of the residency into the wilderness of the Amargosa, Death and Panamint Valleys, which lie parallel to one another; the outline of familiar mountains and dunes provided much more than way-finding, but rather, an unexpected sentiment: comfort.

Perhaps it is the immediacy of mortal danger, where preparing for scenarios like a flat tire, or running low on water, would otherwise be inconveniences, is what heightens the sense of ease that comes with approaching the familiar: a particular stand of bushes, riparian glade, or even a bundle of fencing, tailings, or shift from sand to gravel roads. After a while, it seems reasonable to provide these physical features with nicknames and epithet, since it is appealing to pretend that they are in some manner benevolent.

Lanfranco Aceti: My next question is on the importance of the traditional concept of residency and its relationship to space. One of the aspects of contemporary art (in new media or other platforms) is that of revealing new concepts and challenging...

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.