Colonise the Cloud

Gretta Louw

Web-Based Award
Screenshot of Colonise the Cloud, a series of four animated GIFs by Gretta Louw.

Colonise the Cloud is an ongoing series of animated GIFs, presented both online and as projections or on screens in physical spaces, that interrogates the nature of the internet and the so-called 'cloud'. The works deconstruct the highly ideological visual language - the clean, simple, almost child-like diagrams of clouds, interconnecting lines, and glowing blue digits - that is used to market and represent online data storage services. Increasingly, ‘the cloud’ is infecting every aspect of daily life via the explosion of ‘smart’ devices/home appliances/toys etc. The imagery used to represent this underlying network is cynically designed to distract and pacify the public from the reality of extreme resource-heavy server farms, leaks, the surveillance state, and more - thus assuaging angst or curiosity about the technology, which is presented as neutrally abstract and disembodied.

In the series, Colonise the Cloud, Louw proposes the jellyfish as a more fitting visual metaphor for the vast network of servers, firms, cabling, and systems architecture that are cobbled together to form what we now recognise as ‘the cloud’. Jellyfish are usually literally transparent, and yet, the lay-person still can’t really comprehend how the function by looking at them. Where is the mouth, heart, blood, brain? There is something uncanny about this contrast between transparence and lack of understanding. Jellyfish also move in swarms, a structure that far better describes ‘the cloud/the network’ than the iconic image of the lone, rounded cloud. Jellyfish numbers, also, are on the rise in our oceans, with researchers speculating that the raised acidity of the water due to pollutants is conducive to their thriving. There have even been several cases of enormous swarms of millions of jellyfish shutting down nuclear power plants by clogging their waste water pipes in their efforts, incomprehensibly, to get in. Colonise the Cloud ruminates on alternative visual narratives that describe the current zeitgeist and intimate both dystopian futures under an increasingly techno-fascist regime and/or the biological, primordial, elemental ooze that may be our only available course of resistance.

Access the work at:

Screenshot of animated GIF as work in progress in Photoshop
Installation view of Colonise the Cloud by Gretta Louw as floor projection at LABoral in Gijon, Spain
Still image from the animated GIF Colonise the Cloud: Swarm. A multi-species swarm of jellyfish undulate and float over a glitched cloud icon.

Photoshop, web design, found online images, plain text glitch