Acid Clouds is a research project by graphic designer Niels Schrader and photographer Roel Backaert. It includes a series of photographs that map the material traces of virtual data in the Netherlands. From global and local perspectives, the project investigates the massively resource-intensive storage of digital data and questions the image of the cloud as a clean, sterile and environmentally friendly domain. Data storage is currently reaching the point where digital facilities are hitting physical constraints.
Since 2018, Schrader and Backaert have been systematically documenting Dutch data centres. Their nighttime photographs provide a more accurate alternative to the existing visual and verbal rhetoric of the IT sector, which intentionally deflects attention from the damaging effects of technology on our living environment. The photos were all taken from similar points of view in order to methodically capture the spatial presence of the data centres and enable visual comparisons across different topologies. Discovering unique traits of the buildings helps to identify motives and agency hidden in today’s global cloud infrastructure.
Schrader and Backaert are currently working together with editor and publicist Jorinde Seijdel on a publication featuring an extended collection of Dutch data centres. The book will be available through nai010 publishers.