Now through October 21, 2017, Galerie Buchholz presents FILLER, an exhibition by American artist Sam Lewitt, following on and extending the artist’s project Stranded Assets, currently on view in the 57th Venice Biennale.
In Stranded Assets, Lewitt collected a set of lamps, taken from from the stairwell of the Giuseppe Volpi thermoelectric power plant in Venice’s industrial port of Marghera, a recently decommissioned space that is in the process of being converted into a privately owned and operated distribution center. The original lamps found here are used to illuminate Lewitt’s exhibition area in the Biennale. Reproductions of the lamps’ original decorative carapace and murano glass shades line the walls alongside them. These reproductions are constructed from pure, compressed fuel ash, a particulate byproduct of the fuel refinement process used as a filler or replacement material for construction and consumer purposes.
Sam Lewitt, Filler (Installation View)
In Venice, the original lights taken from Marghera illuminate the reproductions. Four of the eight reproductions of these lamps are used to illuminate the Galerie Buchholz in Berlin, returning the lights to a functional state, mounted away from the walls of the gallery on plasterboard which has been manufactured from the particulate byproducts of fuel refinement as well. The remaining four have been covered and sealed with opaque black glass and sedimented with the byproducts of fish bones from the laguna of Marghera.
The exhibition suggests questions of visibility and design, conjuring the corners of the world into which waste and byproducts are funneled, away from the scrutiny of consumers. The assemblage and reproduction of these materials suggests a sort of interventionist and investigatory approach to these questions, framed under looming floodlights and in the relief of fishbones pressed into a cement-like substance. The relentless amassing of material runoff is felt in the use of cast fuel ash and synthetic particulates, illustrating the sense that the planet is running out of space to continue this cycle. At the same time, Lewitt poses these material concerns in contrast with the increasingly rampant modes of capitalist privatization, underscoring the pathways of resource consumption that continue to play out in the foreground of the continued world crisis of climate change and resource shortage.
Both Stranded Assets and FILLER remark upon the phenomenon of the waste produced by energy production cycles, and our seeming inability to stem the tide of individualist consolidation that acts in part to guarantee its inertial movement. Lewitt’s work seeks to transfer these waste-production cycles, typically kept away from the gaze of a consumer, into a place of scrutiny. The methods of re-using and mobilizing the fuel ash that is shed from power plants reflect a kind of flow that Lewitt links to the lava from mount Vesuvius. “Yet unlike lava ash and its ‘freely’ given motive source [fuel as] is generated by an energy infrastructure whose power distribution depends on specific technologies, laws, lobbies, and labor practices aimed at keeping fuel refinement valorized, and the mobility it enables seemingly possible.”
The show is on view through October 21st.
— A. Corrigan
Exhibition Page [Galerie Buchholz]