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Sam Lewitt, Stranded Assets – Modulo 2: Protezione Ambientale
Published 2017

Format A4
144 pages
Cover: yellow Popset paper, one color printing
Binding: glue bound, the spine is covered with black fabric
Interior: 136 pages one color printing (black) on pulp paper plus 4 pages printed in color on glossy paper and 5 pages printed in color on transparent acetate
Limited to 250 numbered copies


Stranded Assets – Modulo 2: Protezione Ambientale is a modified reproduction of a regulations and emissions handbook retrieved from the recently decommissioned coal-fired Giuseppe Volpi power station in Porto Marghera, Venice. Lewitt retrieved this handbook in the course of research for his work Stranded Assets at the 57th Biennale d’Arte Venezia.

The general set of operational standards presented and explained in this handbook are paired against fragments and images taken from the Volpi plant, inserting particular fragments from this defunct energy infrastructure against the legislative context that prescribed its operation. Most conspicuously, transparency pages depicting four lamps featured in the central stairwell of the power station are evenly dispersed throughout the book. The lamps’ form resembles an open book whose ‘pages’ are populated with vertical rows of glass rods, through which light is refracted into the building’s stairwell. The ‘streamlined’ layer-cake shapes of deco situate their design. Stranded Assets links this historically obsolete idea of ‘streamlined’ design to the streamlined circulation of standardized products and operations through the energy economy. The form of the book illuminating the space of appearance thereby lends itself to circumscription. The idea of ‘the book’ is after all the locus classicus of the circulation of enlightenment. It suggests the lamps’ status as an unintentional allegory of literacy’s continual conversion: from mass enlightenment to mass illumination, from spatial and environmental visibility to the invisible flow of legal decree and the functional capacity of the building that the lamps are sedimented in. In this book, photographs of the lamps in context overlay the schematic presentation of legal regulations. Lewitt’s contribution to the Biennale consists in temporarily displacing these lamps into the Venetian Arsenale – the former site of the turbines that powered Venice, which was taken over by the Volpi plant. In his installation in the Arsenale, the original lamps illuminate his designated exhibition area. As an updated facsimile of an ENEL technical manual detailing emissions standards, the book pursues the gap that persists between the experience of a well-lit space of representation, and control of the energy commodity that lights it.