Wet Me: Cupio Dissolvi ad Nubes et Lumina

Lanfranco Aceti
Director of Arts Administration
Boston University
Email: aceti@bu.edu
Web: http://www.lanfrancoaceti.com
Reference this essay: Aceti, Lanfranco. “Wet Me: Cupio Dissolvi ad Nubes et Lumina.” In Leonardo Electronic Almanac 22, no. 1, edited by Lanfranco Aceti, Paul Thomas, and Edward Colless. Cambridge, MA: LEA / MIT Press, 2017.
Published Online: May 15, 2017
Published in Print: To Be Announced
ISSN: 1071-4391
ISBN: 978-1-906897-62-8


The desire of being dissolved—or the desire of transcendence—is the focus of this essay which, by analyzing the concepts of both cloud and contemporary digital media, explores the dramatic tensions of the life and death in the digital archive. The essay questions the corporate and state enforced processes that shape and determine the condition of digital existence, as well as the participation of the individual in these mediated re-presentations of one’s life, which create a fracture between the clouded-human and the grounded-human.

It is this new divide—added to social, economic, geographical and digital fractures—which points directly to contemporary cloud and molecular aesthetics as sources of tension, division, and opportunity. It is in the tension of being and not being produced by the cloud—and its processes of transubstantiation—that lays the possibility of overcoming divides that can no longer be resolved and reconciled. The cloud may offer the opportunity for a post-postmodern re-interpretation of existence that could afford humanity the dream to be and have it both ways by being and not being dissolved, by being disseminated present and archived past, by being dead and alive at the same time.

Keywords: Clouded-human, grounded-human, cloud, molecular, aesthetic, archive

Lanfranco Aceti, Wet Me, 2016. Print on acid free paper. © Lanfranco Aceti, 2016. Courtesy of the artist.
Lanfranco Aceti, Wet Me, 2016. Print on acid free paper. © Lanfranco Aceti, 2016. Courtesy of the artist.

The Cloud: A Psychotic Archive of All and Nothing

When thinking of the cloud, do we think of an organized structure? Or is the cloud an all-encompassing, all-embracing, confused molecular structure that overrides organization, but is nevertheless somehow and somewhat organized and structured? How is this reflected in the reality of human behavior and dis/organized systems?

The question could not be more personal and poignant, as I try to reconcile six external hard drives and four computers containing materials (artworks, writings, and sketches) spanning thirty years into a single organized structure. This is a structure that excludes diskettes (yes, I still have those disseminated between Rome, New York, and London) and pieces of paper, as well as various booklets, audio recordings, and video recordings. In some cases, all of this accumulated stuff obliged an archeological process that is not just a retrieval of mediated material, but an acknowledgement of the sedimentation of one's life within which the condition of excavating and curating has become—to put it in Foucauldian terms—a condition of existence.

Is this a condition of existence or a conditioned existence within which being alive necessarily means, within the contemporary hyper-mediated and hyper-socialized post-society, to appear/to be organized and structured, archived, and hyper-archived within the permeating cloud of the genetic-electro-physicality of our virtual existences? Are these contemporary virtual existences structured and dispersed across the cloud and product (according to Sigmund Freud as interpreted by Jacques Derrida) of an ancestral and biological character?

“Without the irrepressible, that is to say, only suppressible and repressible, force and authority of this transgenerational memory, the problems of which we speak would be dissolved and resolved in advance.” [1]

Is the cloud the solution to the conflict of transgenerational memory/archive as a dispersed and fluctuating new element, both independent of and conditioned by the physicality of our memory/archive, offered for perusal to anyone willing and able to access both our public and private archived personal archeological histories?

The cloud cannot be a revolutionary tool for a new condition of hyper-mediated transgenerational existence because its archiving process and the memories that go with it are organized, structured, and collated according to personal criteria that exist in contradictory structures with one another. Even the post-postmodern condition of the cloud does not appear to open a new conceptual framework, but solely to provide more efficient processes of surveillance and exploitation.

The archive, if containing the irrepressible, cannot be considered as a single, organized structure that can be uploaded ‘finally’ into the cloud; as a systematic body of work, similar to the Aristotelian Organon, which presents itself as having a rational existence and a rational focus that is not the product of ancestral and biological experiences. More importantly, the memories accumulated as an ‘organon’—a logical instrument—generate the obvious questions: Whose instrument? And an instrument of what?

The idea of the cloud as a logic space of molecular elements—an archeology of personal behaviors and facts—fails in the face of the criteria of the illogicality of the cloud structure, if we do not want the cloud to be a replica of other human preconceived structures. It fails as an organon, but also as an instrument and as a corpus. [2] Moreover, it fails to define its instrumentality, since the cloud as a space of archive and of creation is defined by an otherness of purpose that is not necessarily the purpose of the author of the content.

Must one apply to what will have been predefined as the Freudian or psychoanalytic archive in general schemas of reading, of interpretation, of classification which have been received and reflected out of this corpus whose unity is thus presupposed? [3]

Is the cloud an archival unity? Or is the unity presupposed and, as such, is the cloud neither an organon nor a corpus, but just that—a messy collection of contrasted and contrasting data—out of which it is possible to create order or disorder, depending on the concept or image that one may happen to latch onto as consequence of ancestrally and biologically inherited criteria of likes and dislikes? The problem, or one of the problems, is that the cloud embodies an imaginary that is not necessarily a reflection of ‘reality.’ What kind of cloud is this? The fluffy-clouded memory of a day spent lying on the green grass on the top of a mountain, embraced by a blue sky upon which a white cloud pauses and transforms itself as a malleable material seemingly influenced by our thoughts and emotions, or is it rather the dark, ominous cloud that suddenly appears with a gust of wind, obscuring the sun and bringing a darkness lit only by lightning bolts? The cloud brings with it both the biological and ancestral criteria that are applied not only by humans but also by increasingly psychotic institutions in defining the material of the cloud and how some of this material defines the whole of an individual or an institutional entity. Psychopathic institutions and corporations access the cloud and define individuals in the cloud according to sadistic criteria, redefining, via the virtual interpretation of a part, both virtual and physical individual characteristics and possible behaviors. The cloud itself is a corporation and, as such, is subject to personhood as well as psychological deviancies and pathological behaviors. [4]

The Anal Cloud

The pineal eye probably corresponds to the anal (in other words nocturnal) conception that I initially had of the sun and that I then expressed in a phrase such as “the intact anus…to which nothing sufficiently blinding can be compared except the sun (even though the anus is the night).” I imagined the eye at the summit of the skull like a horrible erupting volcano, precisely with the shady and comical character associated with the rear end and its excretions. [5]

The cloud could be an expulsion of gas, materials, verbiage, and/or bodily fluids of the rotten bodies of contemporary digital media and hyper-surveillance of post-societies and pre-dictatorships. Being part of the cloud is a process of constant ‘becoming,’ whereby everything, both real and simulated, is transformed into the archival excretion of the rear end of the digital media volcano, digested via Marshall McLuhan’s concept of the rearview mirror that suddenly conjures other visions: those of a global village in the hands of the “Wiener Brigade.”

In his keynote for the June, 2014 conference Cloud and Molecular Aesthetics in Istanbul, Darren Tofts wrote that information as energy is characterized by misappropriations and therefore, one could assume, also by errors, intentional and unintentional, but more importantly by psychotic appropriations and redesigns of the flow of information, archiving and defining memory and remembrance. These are psychotic misappropriations that, in a delusional representation of the virtual, confound clouds with the excretion of the anal eye of the rotten digital body. Nevertheless, the clouds could be nothing other than the methane expelled by the body, yet another form of energy that exists in the form of gas clouds of collective human production expelled from a gangrenous post-social body.

“The notion of information as energy at odds with entropy is nowhere more revealing and appropriately delicious than in the misprision of the founder of cybernetics’ name, Norbert Wiener, in the variations on its spoken pronunciation as Weener, Winer, Veener or Viner, evidences the heightening of noise and ambiguity in the system of its utterance.” [6]

As an example against the conceptual structures and misprisions of Norbert Wiener’s name, I cannot resist using the clouded, cannibalized, sex-texting-existence of Anthony Weiner and his sexting scandals. The idea of information as energy is, perhaps, seen nowhere more patently than in the act of devouring a politician—Weiner/weener, no longer just a hot dog, but now also the cringe-inspiring image of a penis flying in the clouds, is, in all of its miserable variants and ambiguities, taking the shape of the ‘homunculus,’ the alchemist’s ‘small man,’ produced by a cloud of alchemical, personal criteria and electronic vapors and ready to replace humanity. [7] It is reductive to present Weiner’s cybernetic social media self-destruction as the sole consequence of the existence of multiple clouds of .jpeg data, transmitted and suspended somewhere in the sky like the mountains of pollution that float in the ocean or the debris of satellites and rockets floating through the stratosphere. It appears to be more strictly linked to the dromological pollution caused by the collapse of the beginning and the end, where the prospective act is already gravid of its factual consequences, telecommunicated even before being acted upon. [8] In this context, the usage of the contemporary cloud as a modern versus postmodern construct that transfers, thus far, the digital byproducts of humans across the world is based on social structures that are not those of the cloud itself, but those of contemporary society that are replicated within the cloud in all of their madness and maddening hierarchal and bureaucratic criteria in a constant voyage of repetition and alteration in order to preserve the same. [9]

Is it possible that culture’s or energy’s defining characteristic is the folly of misinformation that becomes the closest possible imaging and imagining of an increasingly clouded ‘truth’? Are these psychotic personal criteria of engagement multiplied in the cloud of the Baudrillardian reality of our cultural and aesthetic productions? If the wiener of Weiner shot in a sex-selfie is the ultimate production of the collective imaginary and usage of Wiener’s cybernetics, then we could be talking of the cloud as the necessary existential instrument, the organon, of the Wiener Brigade. The Wiener Brigade is a title that, similarly to the title of the New York Post’s article, “Weiner’s Second Coming! Anthony: Erect Me Mr. Mayor,” does not provide a social commentary on the censoring structures of the cloud, but rather on the cannibalizing and self-cannibalistic features of contemporary mediated societies. If the Weiner example provides any insight, it is into the processes of control that have not changed and continue to be transposed across technologies and centuries in order to enforce power via behavioral control. “The distinction between Holy and profane is the elementary code in a crucial production of heterogeneity: one enabling the social community, through the interplay between negative and proactive rules of behavior, to reaffirm its own power.” [10]

The contemporary cloud is affected and afflicted by public displays of sex in a digital sexophobia that wishes to redefine and curate, via ‘established’ criteria, people’s virtual existences on social media. The archive of the cloud, particularly via social media, excludes and forbids, hides and imposes behavioral forms of engagement that are defined by an aesthetic of the image that is anesthetized and reduced to a polluting flow of nonsense. Thus, if Weiner can flow unchallenged across the skies of the virtual imaginary in a social process of cannibalization of widespread sexual behaviors; if sexting has become a common social feature enshrined in a range of social platforms (e.g., Tumblr), butthole-eating [11] is instead instantly censored by Facebook with the same vehemence as a woman’s nipple, [12] lactating or not. Apparently, clouds cannot have nipples or anuses unless these are hierarchically approved, while they certainly can display, reproduce, and engage with idiotic discourses of gender, race, class, and any other forms of discrimination, as well as threats and announcements of murder and massacres. [13]

This raises profound questions regarding the nature not just of the cloud’s space, but also the nature of social models and hierarchic corporate and governmental structures that, after invading the Internet in order to monetize and commercialize it, have for the past fifteen years increasingly restricted spaces of cultural production, social engagement, debates, and social responsibility in order to conquer the largest portion of global audience, delivering social engagements at the minimum common denominator for maximized exploitation. [14]

In all of this, the fact that former United States Senator Rick Santorum still has a problem with anal sex [15] shows that somehow the cloud can be an alternative shift in social discourses and analysis as well as an archive of the irrepressible, and that a lack of humanity in the algorithmic structures [16] might actually assist humanity, or a portion of it, in defeating—or at least taming—uncontrollable and resurgent social hierarchies. Humanity is saved by the lack of humanity in the construction of an algorithm that by inhumanely and objectively applying the rules favors all humans and none of them.

Dan Savage’s definition of Santorum’s last name  as “the frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the by-product of anal sex” [17] has offered an understanding of both (a) the possibilities to be explored within the limits and remits of legality that challenge hierarchies and (b) the users’ ability to institute alternative irrepressible archives; e.g., ‘Santorum Droppings.’ [18]

It is too early to fathom whether Google bombs, darkening clouds, and political neologisms offer alternatives to the current cloud system by creating other archives. In fact, if we were to look back at the history of the Internet and social media, their revolutionary impetus seems lost in favor of corporate or governmental controls. [19] The cloud, contrary to the Internet, never presented itself as having a revolutionary impetus, and instead has focused on a relationship constructed on concepts of alterity, remoteness, invisibility, immateriality, and immortality. The cloud of information systems has behaved like a tick sucking someone else's livelihood to stay alive. Feeding and gorging on information; existing as an interesting paradox in relation to its constructed immortality and ambiguity. Perhaps the cloud will free contemporary cultural frameworks by providing viral and infectious opportunities to fight the eternal preservation of the illusion that ‘this pure generation of hierarchical know-it-alls’ has to be necessarily followed by a generatio prava atque perversa [20] (a perverse and crooked generation) or that the next generation of ‘hierarchical know-it-alls’ was necessarily preceded by perverse and crooked ancestors.

The Cloud: Wanting It and Having It Both Ways

Is it possible to want it both ways? And is it possible to have it both ways? In some way, is the cloud telling us that the age of binary opposition, of Hegelian idealism of this versus that awaiting a reconciliation, has definitely ended? Could we say that the cloud moves us beyond the chaotic/organic growth of the rhizome that people continue to oppose, the rigidity of the frameworks of modernity that sometimes take fascistic under- and overtones? And if so, how can we possibly transition from wanting and having it both ways—as ethereal and material—to creating and being it both ways?

There is a utopian element to technology, and this element has never been more utopic and futuristic (in the sense of being inspired by the futurists’ fascination with technology) than in the praxis of contemporary digital and social media technologies that, refusing to consider the importance of cultural context and human nature, insist on presenting technology by itself as the panacea for all social evils in a distorted and ill-conceived representation of Marfa Lapkina’s marveling at technology in Grigori Aleksandrov and Sergei Eisenstein’s The General’s Line (1929). Who can forget the hopes lifted by Twitter revolutions and click-revolutionaries, [21] the multitude of visions of the Internet miracles in fieri, and the wide-ranging and wide-sweeping drawbacks spanning from surveillance to corporate exploitation of people’s identities and behaviors? All of it wrapped in a multitude of assumptions and discourses about heads stuck up their own pineal holes, which were and continue to be imagined as clouds.

The cloud is ‘hovering’ above as well as in the midst of all of these human contradictions with the inherent possibilities and inherent failures that characterize the exploitation and monetization of people’s physical data presence.

The idea that the cloud is an innovative, all-enveloping, and all-encompassing system is an absurdity, insofar as it is impossible to upload, at this stage of current scientific and technical knowledge, a human being onto the cloud. [22] If this were possible, the question to be asked would be focused on the type of relationship established between the human on the ground and the human on the cloud, a conflicting relationship in which either the clouded-human or the grounded-human would have to be enslaved in order for the slave to create and curate the existence of the master.

Based on the current experiential conditions of the cloud, it appears that the grounded-human is enslaved to the creation, curation, and maintenance of the clouded-human.

The responsibilities that contemporary post-post-Internet (if we consider contemporary times as post-postmodernism) place upon the grounded-human are financial (the cloud is expensive), temporal (time is needed to take care of the clouded-human), and labor-intensive (curating and maintaining the archiving process requires constant attention, updates, and revisions).

The cloud, at least at this stage, does not appear to move beyond the Cartesian dualism of grounded-human and clouded-human, and does not appear to be constructing a resolution to this binary opposition by presenting us with a solution or an escape based on a Hegelian ideal form of reconciliation of opposites. In all honesty, the cloud does not appear to favor the rhizomatic approach either, since there clearly are hierarchies in place in the management of the cloud and in the creation and selection of criteria for the uploading or curating of the cloud-archive. And even if the points of access and manipulation of criteria appear to be wanton, they respond to other meta-hierarchies of control and manipulation of both the clouded- and grounded-humans. In fact, to imagine a cloud as an organism that is independent of national, military, and corporate control means to ignore the modality of the birth of the Internet, its development, and the subsequent phenomena of control and surveillance. [23]

It is for these reasons that a meta-modernist [24] definition of the cloud as “metaxy”—intended, in Platonic terms, as a construction that allows movement between opposite terms, definitions, poles, and criteria, as well as movement beyond any and all of them—could respond to an all-inclusive character of the cloud operating physically and metaphysically, materially and immaterially, hierarchically and anarchically, individually and collectively, but also surpassing any of these terms, binary constructs, and their possible matrixes.

This could be a great definition for the cloud if it were not also alter-modern and fit to embrace Nicholas Bourriaud’s definition. What could, in fact, be more alter-modern than the clouded-human as a representation of Bourriaud’s definition of ‘cultural nomad’? What more so than a digital cloud “gives the impression of being uplifted by an immense wave of displacements, voyages, translations, migrations of objects and beings”? [25] Or could the cloud be part of digi-modernism, [26] within which digital refractions, infractions, effractions, mediations, trans-mediations and re-mediations of both content and technology alike generate new frameworks of engagement and behavioral systems?

To get back to Tofts, …But the Cloud… [27] is both more and less, and the grounded- and clouded-humans appear to want the cloud both ways, as they themselves wish to be both ways, simultaneously real and virtual, without ever ceasing to be of the two.

But borrowing the more ethereal, molecular and stratocumulus notion of the cloud from mathematics, astronomy and meteorology, the metaphor suggested dispersal and displacement, an agglomeration of points within a mass more gaseous than solid, immaterial, foggy and moving like flotsam, gossamer or fairy floss…But I digress. The metaphor of the cloud does indeed want it both ways. It wants to be ethereal and material at the same time. As illustrations of it demonstrate it is figurative of the idea of vapour as other-thereness, but images its groundedness in the solidity of location (not on my computer, but others elsewhere, somewhere else). This sophistry, which is gestured to neatly in the theme of this conference, “Cloud and Molecular Aesthetics”, marvels at a new distributed and immaterial model of data storage that exceeds the network metaphor that defined the age of the early Internet.  And here was I all those years ago thinking that the decentred, anti-nuclear attack model of the Internet was particulate, cloud-like, just like the first images of ARPANET. [28]

If we are to move beyond a postmodern framework, and as an alternative to post-postmodernist thinking, perhaps the cloud is neither alter-, nor digi-, nor meta-, nor post-postmodern, yet, at the same time, is all of the above.

This would open the way to a new period that could be called “superpositionism”: a period in which subatomic particles of quantum computers [29] will create a new ‘subatomic cloud,’ within which one could be in two places—be two things—at the same time, and truly have it both ways.

Moreover, superpositioning offers the opportunity to have a desire satisfied as soon as it is expressed, or before, or even if it is not desired at all. It is no longer the time before the space or vice-versa, but rather both time and space before the journey begins, and further beyond, even without wanting the voyage.

But wanting it both ways does not necessarily mean having it both ways. If the cloud wants to be material and ethereal at the same time—if humanity wants its existence to be grounded and clouded at the same time—there may well be a price to pay.

The Internet has its costs, which are being made manifest, [30] and the cloud (ethereal or material) will at some point reveal the various costs—ethereal, material, and beyond – that we will have to pay for our superpositioning.

Head in the Clouds

On the Manner of Addressing Clouds

Gloomy grammarians in golden gowns,
Meekly you keep the mortal rendezvous,
Eliciting the still sustaining pomps
Of speech which are like music so profound
They seem an exaltation without sound.
Funest philosophers and ponderers,
Their evocations are the speech of clouds.
So speech of your processionals returns
In the casual evocations of your tread
Across the stale, mysterious seasons. These
Are the music of meet resignation; these
The responsive, still sustaining pomps for you
To magnify, if in that drifting waste
You are to be accompanied by more
Than mute bare splendors of the sun and moon.

Wallace Stevens, Harmonium, 1923.

I once believed that within academia, people would reach a different plane of existence, a transhuman superpositioning that could be called transcendentalism. [31] Somehow, people would shed their bodies (that is, their form) and transform into these glistening and shining clouds (orbs of content), with rays of beautiful light irradiating through and from them, and that these ‘academic’ clouds would float gently across the halls and the world, spreading knowledge and spiritual connections; no longer egotistic, wanton human failures dissolving their identities in power-grabbing fits, like pigs in the mud, but selfless, ego-less, firm constants of enlightened and enlightening existence, living simultaneously in the past and in the future, donating their light—in Wallace Stevens’s words—to make both “the mute splendors of the sun and the moon.”

Tofts describes this dissolution process, this ability to transform into something else by transcending the body and potentially assume another status or form, as both a characteristic of sugar and the cloud. As if cloud and sugar are, or could be, the same thing, just in different states or in different moments in time. Let us assume that superpositionism will become the period in the 21st century that signals the shift to quantum-computing and particle-living. The transformative nature of the implementation of the related technologies should alter and allow humans to transition into different and multiple states, transcending the human as we know and conceive of it. Humans may actually become like cubes of sugar, waiting to be wet – to be “dissolved,” as Tofts put it—in order to reach some other form.

They are kind of like clouds. Ethereal, particulate and dissolvable, they are always already on the way to becoming nothing. The sugar cube is a pharmakon of sorts, an integer of opposites that, in its either/or-ness, can never be reconciled. [32]

The problem is not whether to transition, but whether to question the process of transitioning, and into what. And who is in charge of the manipulation of this transition? Somehow, the battle over digital data being fought via TISA [33] is but a small magnifying lens that reveals some of the problems that both grounded-human and clouded-human will have to face. Particles are microscopic and, as such, are difficult to see, manage, and individuate. The invisibility of contemporary digital data has already lead to an abdication of rights and protections that have left humanity exposed and at the mercy of unscrupulous governments, military entities, and corporations. The further trans-nationalization of the cloud, with billions of personal data being freely accessed with no or little restraint, [34] will necessary lead to a reclassification of the grounded-human according to selected criteria that are extrapolated by the clouded-human.

Suddenly, the differences between the grounded-human and the clouded-human seem to vanish, since both are the same aspect of the same facet of the same medal—a superpositionist conceptualization. The grounded-human is humanity left on the ground, grounded like a punished child, or grounded by the impossibility of flying. The clouded-human is the part of humanity that, by living with its head in the clouds and with clouded judgement, has given it all up and now lives in constant fear of being grounded. Already enslaved, these people constantly and continuously comply with whatever criteria are conjured up so that the data archive of their clouded existence is compliant, as if the reality of their existence was dependent upon the resemblance of data. [35]

In this sense, the irrepressible archive of Derrida could disappear or become null. It could become information superseded and suppressed by the flow of trillions of other particles. Obscured by the rapid proliferation and the shear mass of things belonging to a humanity that wants and has it all, the truth, conceived of as the energy that moves it all, is hidden behind the unimaginable, behind curtains that do not hide the Wizard of Oz but the rotten, corrupt, flatulent condition of an existential framework that is both democracy and dictatorship and more.

Humanity is left with the transitory, sugary state as an answer to human doubts and failures, with a comprehension that is not collective (as a diminishing sum of intelligence and an increasing subtraction of intelligence), but something that is simultaneously other and the same.

Conclusions on Love and Death in the Cloud

Interea, dum fata sinunt, iungamos amores:

Iam Veniet Tenebris Mors Adoperta Caput [36]

It is no longer possible to look at the cloud without imagining a transformative process. The constant flow and alteration of the cloud is the constant flow and alteration of a human being —always, and yet never, the same. Defining the cloud fails to capture its entirety and only provides an insufficient instrument: an ineffectual organon. There is no corpus that can capture the entirety of the cloud, nor one the entirety of humanity, and the organon is just a severed part of the whole.

In this sense, the pervasion of the cloud is also part of its fragility. Be Right Back (2013), an episode of the TV show Black Mirror, [37] questions both the fragility and remoteness of the cloud and its task to contain all of a human being, conceived in an anthropocentric tradition of superiority based on one emotion (as if humanity could be reduced to one emotion), love, but always forgetting hate. The cloud’s inability to create ‘real’ love becomes the inability to replicate ‘real’ life and death, as the real has disappeared and existence is suspended in a world where both life and death exist and do not exist, as a paradoxical conundrum of simultaneous existence and absence. The cloud tries to be both life and death, knowing that it asks what cannot be: that both love and hate, life and death, creation and destruction are, in the cloud, beyond the normal parameters of existence and what we have defined in terms of ‘the real.’

According to Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, and Pier Paolo Pasolini, the cloud is none other than a form of existence in the process of transformation, of becoming something else beyond what we know: “existence A” in the process of becoming “existence B,” without being either, yet wanting to be both.

Perhaps, it is in this context that the cloud speaks of a world to come, a world cleansed of the virus that is humanity, forging a new technologic utopia based on the transformative powers of transitioning. This is yet another transubstantiation of the body via technological means: a transhumanism without body that speaks more of transcendence than biology and physics. If the cloud can deliver on this promise of ‘beyond’—wherein there is no longer failure but re-birth, no longer data permanence but constant new memories, finally no longer hindered by the restriction of the humanity of things—life will be able to flow through us again like melting sugar cubes, and transition us and itself into a new state.

In this respect, it is the role of the cloud and its metaphors to allow both love and hate, life and death, and beyond—the tenebris to provide lumina to create a beyond—that will provide new hope to overcome the permanent disenchantment of humanity’s contemporary dystopias.

If this is the case, then it is not soon enough for the cloud to wet me.

References and Notes

[1] Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, trans. Eric Prenowitz (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 35.

[2] “A corpus is defined in terms of both its form and its purpose. […] A corpus is planned, though chance may play a part in the text collection, and it is designed for some linguistic purpose. The specific purpose of the design determines the selection of texts, and the aim is other (the stress is mine) than to preserve the texts themselves because they have intrinsic value.” Susan Hunston, Corpora in Applied Linguistics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 2.

[3] Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, trans. Eric Prenowitz (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 36.

[4] “Most people would find its ‘personality’ abhorrent, even psychopathic, in a human being, yet curiously we accept it in society’s most powerful institution.” Joel Bakan, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power (New York: Free Press, 2005), 28. Also: Arran Stibbe, “The Corporation as Person and Psychopath: Multimodal Metaphor, Rhetoric and Resistance,” Critical Approaches to Discourse Analysis across Disciplines 6, no. 2 (2013): 114-136.

[5] Georges Batailles, Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927-1939, ed. Allan Stoekel, trans. Allan Stoekel, Carl R. Lovitt and Donald M. Leslie, Jr. (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1985), 74.

[6] Darren Tofts, “… But the Clouds: A Valediction Permitting Mourning, in Three Stages of Decline,” (keynote, Cloud and Molecular Aesthetics - The Third International Conference on Transdisciplinary Imaging at the Intersections of Art, Science and Culture, Goldsmiths  and Sabanci University, Istanbul, June 28, 2014).

[7] “[…] premodern opponents of artificial life feared the implication that the laboratory worker could create a should on demand. […] fearing the ‘manufacture’ of human beings and the consequent dehumanization that this might imply - early modern theologians already worried that humanity would soon be relegated to the status of a soulless artisanal product.” William R. Newman, Promethean Ambitions: Alchemy and the Quest to Perfect Nature (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2005), 7-6.

[8] “An ecology that would be concerned not only with the air and noise pollution of the big cities but, first and foremost, the sudden eruption of the ‘world-city’, totally dependent on telecommunications, that is being put in place at the end of the millennium.” Paul Virilio, Open Sky, trans. Julie Rose (London: Verso, 1997), 59.

[9] “The Narrenschiff, of course, is a literary composition, probably borrowed from the old Argonaut cycle, […] Fashion favored the composition of these Ships, whose crew of imaginary heroes, ethical models, or social types embarked on a great symbolic voyage which would bring them, if not fortune, then at least the figure of their destiny or their truth.” Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Vintage-Random House, 1988), 7-8.

[10] Winfried Menninghaus, Disgust: Theory and History of a Strong Sensation, trans. Howard Eiland and Joel Golb (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2003), 349.

[11] “Hahhahhahhaaahaaha, Facebook has deleted this link from my timeline, and all my friends' timelines. Incredible.” The comment with captured image of censorship is written and posted by a reader on the article’s comment section. Samer Kalaf, “Butthole Eaten at Lions Tailgate,” Deadspin, December 14, 2014, http://deadspin.com/butthole-eaten-at-lions-tailgate-1670931368/all (accessed December 15, 2014).

[12] Heather Magee, “In 2014, Why Do We Still Censor Nipples?,” Huffington Post, December 5, 2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/heather-magee/censorship-nipples_b_6273086.html (accessed January 2, 2015).

[13] Vikram Dodd, Ewen MacAskill and Patrick Wintour, “Lee Rigby Murder: Facebook Could Have Picked Up Killer’s Message,” The Guardian, November 26, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/nov/25/lee-rigby-murder-internet-firm-could-have-picked-up-killers-message-report-says (accessed January 2, 2015).

[14] Nicole S. Coher, “The Valorization of Surveillance: Towards a Political Economy of Facebook,” Democratic Communiqué 22, no. 1 (Spring 2008).

[15] Stephanie Mencimer “Rick Santorum's Anal Sex Problem: Why Rick ‘Man on Dog’ Santorum Can't Beat his Google Troubles,” Mother Jones, Setpember/October, 2010, http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2010/08/rick-santorum-google-problem-dan-savage (accessed December 14, 2014).

[16] Evan McMorris-Santoro, “Search Engine Expert: Rick Santorum's New Crusade Against Google Is Total Nonsense,” TPM, September 20, 2011, http://api.talkingpointsmemo.com/election2012/search-engine-expert-rick-santorum-s-new-crusade-against-google-is-total-nonsense (accessed November 10, 2014).

[17] Dan Savage, Spreading Santorumhttp://spreadingsantorum.com (accessed December 14, 2014).

[18] Droppings here refers to both the multiple times that Santorum has dropped from the Presidential race in the United States of America and the fecal matter that metaphorically appears to drop from his mouth.

[19] “Paradoxically, the extreme ‘openness’ of the Internet has fueled the creation of new political elites.” Matthew Hindman, The Myth of Digital Democracy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009), 4.

[20] Biblia Sacra Iuxta Vulgatam Versionem, Deut. 32:5.

[21] “Harold Innis (1951) might say that what happened challenged two ‘monopolies of knowledge’ which potentially regulated the flow of information from Tehran to the United States: the Iranian government’s desire to contain news of the protest and the mainstream news media’s ability to determine the priority it gave to covering specific events.” Henry Jenkins, “Twitter Revolutions?” Spreadable Mediahttp://spreadablemedia.org/essays/jenkins/#.VKbUKsbXcUU (accessed December 2, 2014).

[22] A movie like Transcendence (2014) provides a scenario of the ‘magic’ developments of AI, biotech and nanotechnology.

[23] Owen Bowcott and Spencer Ackerman, “Mass Internet Surveillance Threatens International Law, UN Report Claims,” The Guardian, October 15, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/15/internet-surveillance-report-edward-snowden-leaks (accessed December 12, 2014). See: Shane Harris, @ War: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, 2014) and Edwin Diamond, Stephen Bates and Mark Horowitz, “The Ancient History of the Internet,”  American Heritage 46, no. 6 (October 1995).

[24] Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker, “Notes on Metamodernism,” Journal of Aesthetics and Culture 20 (2010).

[25] Nicolas Bourriaud, Altermodern (London: Tate Publishing, 2009), 14.

[26] “Digimodernism, as well as a break in textuality, brings a new textual form, content, and value, new kinds of cultural meaning, structure, and use…” Alan Kirby, Digimodernism: How New Technologies Dismantle the Postmodern and Reconfigure Our Culture (New York: The Continuum International Publishing, 2009), 3.

[27] Darren Tofts, “… But the Clouds: A Valediction Permitting Mourning, in Three Stages of Decline,” (keynote, Cloud and Molecular Aesthetics - The Third International Conference on Transdisciplinary Imaging at the Intersections of Art, Science and Culture, Goldsmiths  and Sabanci University, Istanbul, June 28, 2014).

[28] Ibid.

[29] Hendrik Anthony Kramers, Quantum Mechanics, trans. D. ter Haar (New York: Dover Publications, 1957), 62.

[30] Philip Brey, “Evaluating the Social and Cultural Implications of the Internet,” Computers and Society 36, no. 3 (2006): 41-48.

[31] Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson (New York: Classic Books International, 2010).

[32] Darren Tofts, “… But the Clouds: A Valediction Permitting Mourning, in Three Stages of Decline,” (keynote, Cloud and Molecular Aesthetics - The Third International Conference on Transdisciplinary Imaging at the Intersections of Art, Science and Culture, Goldsmiths  and Sabanci University, Istanbul, June 28, 2014).

[33] “The proposal stipulates, among other things, that no participating state can stop the use, storage and exchange of personal data relating to their territorial base. At the same time, the text is designed to be difficult to repeal and is to be considered confidential for 5 years after being signed.” Associated Whistleblowing Press, “Proposal of New Provisions Applicable to All Services of the Secret TISA Negotiations,” Associated Whistleblowing Press, December 17, 2014, https://data.awp.is/filtrala/2014/12/17/19.html (accessed December 17, 2014).

[34] Glenn Greenwald, “NSA Prism Program Taps in to User Data of Apple, Google and Others,” The Guardian, June 7, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/06/us-tech-giants-nsa-data (accessed December 12, 2014). Also: Nathan Newman, “Why Google's Spying on User Data Is Worse than the NSA’s,” The Huffington Post, July 1, 2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nathan-newman/why-googles-spying-on-use_b_3530296.html (accessed December 12, 2014) and Daniel Trottier, Social Media as Surveillance: Rethinking Visibility in a Converging World (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, 2012).

[35] The Resemblance of Data is an essay I am currently writing on the fracture between reality and data. Data are presented as real even when are not corresponding to the reality of what they have measured. They are accepted as real as long as they resemble the desired appearance of reality.

[36] “Meantime, while the Fates allow, let us join in love. Soon Mors will come, with her head veiled in shadow.” Albius Tibullus, The Complete Poems of Tibullus: An En Face Bilingual Edition, trans. Rodney G. Dennis and Michael C. J. Putnam, book I, vv. 69-70 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2012), 35. Also: “Catullus’ Lothario also knew that the function of philosophic speculation on death is to press the urgency of sexual union (Cat. 5). So, too, Tibullus…” Harold C. Gotoff, “Tibullus: Nunc Levis Est Tractanda Venus,” Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 78 (London: Harvard University Press, January 1, 1974), 241.

[37] Charlie Brooker, “Rewind TV: Black Mirror: Be Right Back; Vegas; Penguins: Spy in the Huddle – Review,” The Guardian, February 16, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2013/feb/16/black-mirror-vegas-penguins-spy-huddle (accessed December 12, 2014).


I would like to thank Darren Tofts for his gracious politeness and patience in listening to my reply to his keynote presentation …But the Clouds…, and Paul Thomas for asking me to respond to such an inspiring address. Also my thanks go to Paul Lindholm and Candice Bancheri for their editing of this article.

Author Biography

Lanfranco Aceti works as an artist, curator, and academic. He is the director of Arts Administration at Boston University. He has done a range of exhibitions and public space interventions at renowned international venues including Tate Modern, MoMA, and the ICA London among others. He is Editor in Chief of the Leonardo Electronic Almanac (The MIT Press, Leonardo journal), for which he has edited more than twelve volumes. He has lectured internationally at prestigious institutions such as Yale, Harvard, RCA, Goldsmiths, and Central Saint Martins. He is currently curating public performances and interventions on the White House sidewalk and at Documenta14 as well as exhibiting his own performance and works of art at the 2017 Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art.