Paul Catanese, Hybrid Media Artist

Visible from Space
2009 - Present | Multi-Modal Artwork

Visible From Space is a thought experiment. It is an open series that exists in multiple materials – video, relief prints, installation, projection, handmade paper, artist’s books, found objects, field notes, interviews, essays, and site specific events.

The desert is a site of remote testing where paraconsistent logics are first considered feasible. Mistakenly construed as the opposite of the ocean, the desert teems with depth – it is also its own mirror.

I am conducting a thought experiment about the phrase visible from space which erupted from a fanciful supposition to create drawings on the Earth so large they would be visible from the moon. For such a feat, the stroke width of the line would need to be close to 60 miles wide in order for barely a hairline to be visible from that distance. It is charming to think that the Great Wall of China is visible from space – but this is merely a popular mythology. It is difficult to resolve an image of the Great Wall even from the International Space Station with the naked eye – which orbits about 250 miles above the Earth, let alone from outer space or nearby celestial bodies. Of course, with military and even civilian imaging technologies, much greater resolution can be achieved as evidenced by what are now commonplace tools such as Google Earth.

Simultaneously, I have been thinking about L'Arbre du Ténéré – a lone tree that lived in the Saharan desert in Niger, the last of a stand of ancient acacias desperately isolated in an encroaching
hostile landscape. The ancient tree was well known as a caravan route marker and can be found as a single tree marked on maps in the middle of the vast desert. Oddly, this lone and ancient tree which shirked the reality of the desert met with its end after a truck driver ran into it in 1973. That lone tree of the desert, an odd single blip on the map - much like our geosynchronous satellites, occupies less than a pixels resolution worth of expanse when viewed from a distance.

While it is significant that we are able to achieve these feats, modern satellite imaging and a proposal to create a drawing on the Earth so large it that could be seen from the moon are similar in the fact that both actions require a wealth of engineering and a lack of humility. Viewed in this light, the requirements for surrogate vision depend on how we define visible, and where we define space. As I contemplate these requirements, I am reminded of L'Arbre du Ténéré, whose monument: a large metal sculpture of a tree – is not even the corpse of a tree.

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.