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Virtual meets natural in design prof's installation

September 22, 2004

A still from "Medicinal Craft of Cephalopods," a video work featured in a show at the Kala Art InstituteAnimal bones and the Game Boy Advance -- two objects that exist in different worlds, one natural, the other digital. However, for Paul Catanese, assistant professor of design and industry, these two objects share a common place in his art installation, "Misplaced Reliquary."

The installation was supported by a $2,900 commission awarded to Catanese by, a New York-based nonprofit that provides an online platform for the global new media art community. In January, sent out requests for proposals, asking artists to suggest projects that give broad interpretations of game.

Catanese responded with a unique take on the word "game."

"I looked it up in the dictionary and 'game' literally means animals, the hunt. To me, game was the art of collection," Catanese said.

And collect he did. Catanese's project will showcase rodent bones, avian beaks and animal shedding, all contained within the virtual walls of a Game Boy Advance, a portable video-game console produced by Nintendo.

Catanese's unconventional choice of blending the Game Boy Advance -- a pop culture icon in the gaming world -- with a collection of animal remains was an appealing concept to curators.

"One of the things that interested me was that Paul's work seems focused on how technology and the conception of nature might work together," said Francis Hwang, director of technology and juror on the Commissioning Program. "In a sense, it is trying to give both sides of the coin equal play and equal respect."

In these pieces, described as "handheld personal cabinet[s] of curiosity," Catanese utilizes the combination of the familiar with the unexpected to create tension and interest. In doing so, he hopes to not only reshape the public's expectations of games and animals, but also raise curiosity about a hidden universe.

"My art practice, on all the pieces that I've worked on, is on developing and expressing a hidden cosmology," he said. "There is a larger hidden cosmology that I'm revealing to people through image, sound and interaction."

Catanese is a hybrid media artist and teaches new media in the Design and Industry Department. His artwork has been exhibited internationally, notably at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Canadian New Forms Festival in Vancouver, Germany's Stuttgarter Filmwinter and Vilette Numerique in Paris, France. Catanese is also artist-in-residence at the Kala Art Institute in Berkeley. For more information, visit Catanese's Web site.

Catanese is showing a similar piece to "Misplaced Reliquary" at the Kala Art Institute. The exhibition runs through Oct. 9. More information can be found at the Kala Art Institute Web site.

"Misplaced Reliquary" will be exhibited on the Web site starting Nov. 1. Users will have the option of downloading a ROM file that will play on an emulator on a computer. Directions will also be given on how to view the ROM file on a GBA. The installation will also be presented at a public event in New York City in early 2005.

-- Student Writer Audrey Tang and Matt Itelson


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Last modified September 22, 2004 by University Communications