Hidden culture of energy

Published: Thursday 15 April 2004

-- colors Issue #60 Benetton

The recent issue [#60] of Colors an online and print magazine published by Benetton on The Story of Energy, looks very timely, as the news of the oil giant Shell over-reporting its oil stock hits the headlines. This is not a stray case. Large energy companies are under gross financial mismanagement and fradulent practices: recall Enron.

The issue on energy departs from standard didactic communication, which Colors has mastered so beautifully. The issue is divided into five simple channels: nuclear , coal, hydropower, oil and alternative.

The story of nuclear energy revolves around: decommissioning of power plants in the developed world along with the rehabilitation of the installations. It reminds us of the massive problem of handling radioactive wastes. "This is the most expensive and most polluted way to boil water", comments a Greenpeace activist. Editorially, it is highly critical of the South African ambition of making a cottage nuclear industry out of the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor. There is also a dig at Indian nationalism over its post-Pokhran Jai Vigyan (Hail Science).

Coal is all about subterranean labour; people free from the cicardian cycle. Editorially, it uses an effective tool; an interview format complete with portraits of miners. "Sometimes it's so hot in there that you'd take your skin off if you could", says Andy Ramsell, a British miner.

Hydropower explores stories of displaced people, and largescale transformation of landscapes. And the most violent of all is the transnational oil installation in remote African villages.

The synchrocity between the editorial and creative teams is remarkable. In the current issue, art directors have exploited a yellowish kitschy poster aesthetics to higlight the cold violence, itself iconic of the hidden culture of the global energy network. The online version uses the creative architecture of flash to maximise the shock value. It is worth checking out the site (http://www.benetton.com/colors) regularly, even if you cannot get the print version.

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