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Columbia College Chicago

Faculty Spotlight: Paul Catanese

October 22, 2013
By Hannah Lorenz

Paul Catanese works in Interdisciplinary Arts and has a flair for experimentation. As a “hybrid media artist,” he’s constantly mixing different techniques, and he teaches his students to do the same. Here are six things you should know about the prolific, passionate Paul Catanese:

1. He’s a triple threat.

Catanese has three roles within the Interdisciplinary Arts department. As associate chair, he handles administrative duties—organizing course schedules and the like. As program director for the Interdisciplinary Arts and Media MFA, he spearheads recruitment and helps decide what students need to learn. And as associate professor, he teaches classes that focus mostly on technology—coding languages, interactive media—including a “Bring Your Own Beamer!” class, in which he hopes to organize two “guerilla projection” events, where multiple screenings are shown all at once.

2. He plays with drones in the desert.

In an experimental project titled Visible from Space, Catanese created both indoor and outdoor installations in Arizona and “spied” on the art using small, camera-equipped drones. He said he spent the academic year studying drones—how they work and how to fix one when you’re in the desert—so he could immerse himself in the experience over the summer.

3. He literally wrote the book on post-digital printmaking.

Along with Angela Geary, Catanese wrote Post-Digital Printmaking: CNC, Traditional and Hybrid Techniques to document the ways artists have blurred the lines between traditional and digital printmaking. Essentially, artists can use digital software to control laser cutters and other physical machines. “It’s not that you just use a new technology or just use an old technology,” Catanese says. “There’s this other way of working with digital technology that still preserves the traditional press.”

4. He’s always learning.

When it comes to art, Catanese’s motto is: “Concept first, material second.” To get an idea across, he may have to use an unfamiliar method and learn along the way. “My whole practice is built on having to learn things that I have no idea about,” Catanese says.

He was no drone expert before he started the Visible from Space project, but through research and collaboration, he explores new ways to create his art. “Oftentimes, people think [experimentation] means without rigor,” Catanese says. “For me it really means with iteration, with failing many times and trying again.”

5. He’s always blending.

Catanese works with Assistant Professor Melissa Potter, who focuses on papermaking, to embed electronic components into handmade paper. They’ve created paper with working lights and speakers, but Catanese says, “It’s not enough just to demo a thing and be like, ‘Look, I got it working.’ What do we want to say with it?” To follow up on earlier experiments, they’re creating several large paper speakers and an accompanying sound piece.

6. He teaches students to learn on their own.

“Collaboration is actually a unique skill set,” Catanese says, noting that it isn’t for everyone. For hybrid media artists, who have to learn new methods as they go, the expertise of other artists is invaluable. “You must be confident that you’re going to be able to learn whatever tools [you need] and that you’re going to be able to work with others,” Catanese says.