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.

by Lanfranco Aceti and Vince Dziekan

Lanfranco Aceti: We have just reached the half-way point in the release of Paul Catanese's ’Visible from Space’: the inaugural project of LEA's new exhibition programme. If you've been following the progressive release of Paul's images across our social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter and – of course – Flickr), you will no doubt have been struck by the work's evolving character. To date, the release of an image-per-day has been accompanied by a very direct textual attribution, which reads as follows: ’Visible from Space’ by Paul Catanese. 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.

Over the remainder of the month, we will be using Flickr to host a conversation with Paul to tease out some of the ideas that are being alluded to through his images. Paul has provided the following artist statement – which, as one would expect, reads as intriguingly as his image-making – to initiate this process:

Paul Catanese: 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.

Vince Dziekan: Hi Paul - Firstly congratulations on the project and in being so amenable to participating in this inaugural launch. As such, your work has been a real "test site" for LEA's new exhibit...

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.