Paul Catanese, Hybrid Media Artist

Observatories of Uncharted Vitreous
2011 | Installation | Robert & Elaine Stein Galleries, Wright State University

The installation, Observatories of Uncharted Vitreous, was the centerpiece of a retrospective of my artwork from the past ten years entitled Relics and Constellations: Hybrid Work of Paul Catanese exhibited at the Robert & Elaine Stein Galleries at Wright State University, curated by Tess Cortés. Observatories of Uncharted Vitreous furthers my ongoing series of installations which include Forgotten Constellations at the 1708 Gallery, Towards a Vast Reservoir of Comets... at the Jack Olsen Gallery, and Hunting Prayers at Washington State University. Documentation photos taken by Lynn Baus and Sergio Cortés; the curator's essay from the exhibition catalog is provided below.

by Tess Cortés
In 1969, Richard G. Woodbridge III submitted an abstract to the scientific journal Proceedings of the IEEE wherein he described the phenomenon of acoustic recordings from antique objects. Essentially he stated that it was possible, with the help of modern technology, to detect ambient sounds and voices that were scribed into pottery and paintings during their creation. Though this theory has not been scientifically verified or put into any kind of serious professional practice, I can’t help but delight in the concept of hearing obsolete sounds contained on the surface of an ancient relic. My imagination wanders into domestic scenarios long lost with time. Is that a dog barking outside the potter’s studio? What music was the artist listening to when he painted that color of green? A peripheral dimension lies unseen on the surface of an object and, with the assistance of technology, can be revealed.

And so it is with the objects collected, scanned, and manipulated by artist Paul Catanese. With the aid of humming overhead projectors, flatbed scanners, and computer programming, Paul unveils and sometimes invents new histories for his found objects.

The scale of Paul’s work varies with the technology he employs, and tangible characteristics of the objects remain when translated into digital iterations. In Misplaced Reliquary, (2005) 4-bit digital depictions of tiny unidentified animal skulls fit neatly in one’s hands by way of the Gameboy Advance video game console. Paul’s internet browser-based work Collected Geology of the Erased Space (2004) is comprised of sounds extracted from found analogue cassette tapes. The action of moving one’s finger across the surface of a computer track pad calls up long-lost audio clips, suspended in an animated landscape.

When looking at Paul’s internet and console-based work next to other artists working with these same tools at the same time, I find that Paul retains a keen focus on the palpable, despite delivery through cold machines and limited color depth. Many artists, most notably Cory Arcangel, best known for modifying Nintendo game cartridges and programmed animations Super Mario Clouds and Super Mario Movie, used these popular video games and machines to make commentaries about our own culture. They perpetuate...