Acid Clouds / On Data Architectures and the Ontologies of Depth
Niels Schrader, Marina Otero Verzier

Acid Clouds, Niels Schrader
Acid Clouds is a research project initiated by graphic designer Niels Schrader and photographer Roel Backaert. It includes among others a series of photographs that maps the material traces of virtual data in the Netherlands. The project investigates the massively resource-intensive and earthbound properties of digital storage, and questions the image of “the cloud” as clean, sterile and environmentally-friendly domain. Acid Clouds is also becoming a book publication that raises urgent ethical and political issues and questions in the field of digital rights, the ownership and administration of big data, the power of large tech companies, public access to information, privacy issues and the vulnerability of data versus their indelibility.

Niels Schrader is a concept-driven information designer with a fascination for numbers and data. He is founder of the Amsterdam-based design studio Mind Design and member of the AGI – Alliance Graphique Internationale. From 2013 to 2021 he was together with Roosje Klap head of the Graphic Design department at the Royal Academy of Art (KABK) in The Hague. Currently he leads the Non Linear Narrative master programme at KABK. Next to his design practice Schrader writes regularly for Novum – World of Graphic Design and Open! Platform for Art, Culture & the Public Domain. In his role as an educator Schrader focuses on social, political and environmental processes driven and influenced by digital technologies. In this context, he has initiated a number of large-scale research projects with partners from outside the academic environment. These institutions include governmental and non-governmental organisations like i.a. the Dutch Parliament, the Dutch Ministry of Finance, the National Archives, the National Library of the Netherlands, Free Press Unlimited, Greenpeace, Hivos and Amnesty International.

On Data Architectures and the Ontologies of Depth, Marina Otero Verzier
This presentation will explore emerging paradigms in digital storage and suggest alternative approaches for our engagement with data. Drawing on field research by Otero, the lecture aims to shed light on the environmental footprint of what is commonly referred to as the ‘cloud.’ It will weave together cosmic timelines with both computational and terrestrial dynamics. A particular focus will be given to the struggles sustained by indigenous communities to protect their lives, sovereignty, and rights in the face of extractive industries underpinning digital infrastructures.

Marina Otero Verzier is an architect, researcher, and visiting professor at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation at Columbia University, New York. Since 2023, she has been a member of the Advisory Committee for Architecture and Design at the Reina Sofía National Museum and Art Center. Otero Verzier specializes in the relationships between architecture and digital infrastructures and resources such as lithium that sustain them. In 2022, she received the Harvard Wheelwright Prize for a project on the future of data storage. Between 2020 and 2023, she was the Director of the Master in Social Design at the Design Academy Eindhoven, and from 2015 to 2022, Director of Research at Het Nieuwe Instituut, where she led initiatives focused on labor, extraction, and mental health. Previously, she was Director of Programming for the Global Studio-X Network, Columbia GSAPP. Otero Verzier has curated exhibitions such as ‘Compulsive Desires: On the Extraction of Lithium and Rebellious Mountains’ at the Municipal Gallery of Porto in 2023, ‘Work, Body, Leisure,’ the Dutch Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2018, and ‘After Belonging,’ the Oslo Architecture Triennale in 2016. She has co-edited “Automated Landscapes” (2023), “Lithium: States of Exhaustion” (2021), “A Matter of Data” (2021), “More-than-Human” (2020), “Architecture of Appropriation” (2019), “Work, Body, Leisure” (2018), and “After Belonging” (2016), among others. Otero Verzier studied at TU Delft and ETSA Madrid and Columbia GSAPP. In 2016, she received her Ph.D. from ETSA Madrid.