Yves Citton – Carbon Liberation Front vs. Carbon Copy Conspiracy
This narrative of a near future began on December 19 and 20, 2005, when guitarist-composer Scott Fields recorded the album Beckett at HansaHaus Studio in Bonn, Germany, along with John Hollenbeck on percussion, Scott Roller on cello and Matthias Schubert on tenor saxophone.
This narrative of a near future began again in 2015 in New York, when McKenzie Wark published his book Molecular Red, subtitled Theory for the Anthropocene, wherein we discovered that a certain “Carbon Liberation Front” (CLF) had been slowly but surely gathering strength over the past two centuries—to the point of becoming, at the dawn of the third millennium, the major player among world powers. Nobody knew how to contain the ubiquitous ways whereby it managed to release more and more carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. Its late appearance on the world stage, after decades and decades of silent underground work, left world leaders and political activists equally helpless. The CLF seemed bound to win on all fronts, smoothly surfing to an easy victory, counting each hurricane, each melting iceberg, each centimeter of higher sea level, each square mile of deforestation, as one more step towards its relentless conquest of Planet Earth. This narrative of a near future does not promise to have a happy ending (Tsing, 2015).
It turns out, however, that this narrative of a near future had already begun on June 6, 2008, seven full years before the publication of McKenzie Wark’s book, when the Carbon Liberation Front was duly trademarked—under serial number 77493322 and registration number 3660049. Global capitalism, always eager to claim its copyrights and intellectual property, had spilled the beans about the activities of the Carbon Liberation Front within the discrete book-keeping of commercial law, well before critical intellectuals publicly revealed its existence.
It may be more justified, however, to say that this narrative of a near future really began on March 25, 2026, when a mysterious “Carbon Copy Liberation Front” (CCLF) claimed its first (and last) political intervention. What originally looked like a mere splinter group of the Carbon Liberation Front surprised most analysts by using a method never previously practiced by the CLF—who did not need to plan any particular “action” to reach its goals, letting all of us silently do all the work as effective sympathizers to its unclaimed cause. Instead of counting on our passive continuation of well-entrenched consumer habits, the new group resorted to hactivism. On March 25, it launched an attack on the global computing network from three unlikely French villages: Sarlat (in the South West), Montebourg (in Normandy) and Robion (in the South East), drawing an almost perfect triangle within the French political hexagon. The European counterintelligence agencies suspected a massive attack to be in preparation; they had significantly increased their surveillance of big city centers, even of some threatening banlieues; they had spotted a few villages (around Tarnac and other well-known ZAD); but they had failed to identify these three small villages as sources of potential threat. This omission proved to have fatal consequences. The attack performed by the Carbon Copy Liberation Front managed, in a matter of days, to bring world powers to their knees, and to push digital capitalism to the brink.
In order to understand what really happened in the last days of March 2026, this narrative of a near future needs to begin in the early 1980s, when a Prague-born philosopher named Vilém Flusser (1920-1991) fled from a Brazil newly controlled by colonels—after having fled in the 1930s from Nazi occupied Europe—and centered his nomadic life around the French village of Robion. This was the time when Flusser was writing and publishing in different languages his books For a Philosophy of Photography, as well as Into the Universe of Technical Images and Writing: Does It Have a Future? In all of these publications, as well as in countless lectures and seminars, Flusser announced that a radically new age had hit modernity with the advent of the technical reproduction of images and sounds (thanks to photography, films, gramophones), and that another radically new age was about to hit us with the spread of digital media. According to him, the near and far future would be written in code, programming every aspect of our daily life and interactions, forcing us humans to de-program our gestures—an artistic endeavor which could only be achieved by the invention of alternative uses, programs and codes. The Carbon Copy Liberation Front had learned that lesson, and acted accordingly—its decision to use Robion as one of the three sites from which to launch its fatal hack being retrospectively interpreted as a clear reference to the philosopher.
This seems all the more probable in light of what can be reconstituted from the previous history of the CCLF—for it had in fact existed for many years before its coming to center stage of world attention in March 2016. Its positioning as a twin brother of the Carbon Liberation Front was only a late and opportunistic metamorphosis within a tactic of dissimulation that managed to fool the successive waves of so-called “anti-terrorist” investigations and repression. Created for the sole purpose of releasing its first and final attack, the CCLF gathered artists and hactivists who had been collaborating since the very beginning of the 21st century under the clandestine name of “Carbon Copy Conspiracy”—originally dissimulating their activities under the cover of a Master Program announcing innocuous reflections and seminars on “Critical, Curatorial and Cybernetic” issues offered by the Haute Ecole d’Art et de Design (HEAD) in Geneva. While openly training future artists and curators, the CCC had in fact been strategizing, devising and designing a deep hack, which came to be widely identified, after the attack, as the “Selfie Hack”, but which its initiators had originally initialed CH (for “Carbon Hack”).
Even if its design is devilishly clever and complex—since it involves the deepest layers of machine language, where software is barely distinguishable from hardware (Kittler 1998), a deep level which only became hackable after the use of deep-learning and self-fixing grammars of programmation had become prevalent in the 2020s—the basic idea of the Carbon Hack is pretty straightforward. It relies on the substitution-alteration of two of the most common operators in the most elementary forms of code: THEN and ELSE. Since the beginning of computing, machines obey to humans through an elementary grammar based on a series of commands generally producing sequences of the type :
IF… [a condition to be observed in the data],
THEN… [an operation to be performed],
ELSE… [an alternative operation, or lack thereof, to be performed in case the condition previously specified is not observed].
The Carbon Hack corrupted these two latter basic operators. It managed to fool the workings of the deep-learning and self-fixing bio-electrical circuitry in order to apply a new basic grammar, wherein THEN became WHEN, and ELSE became SELF. (The playful elegance of such minor substitutions in letters led many analysts to suspect some members of the CCC to be involved in literary circles.) The Carbon Hack artfully redesigned these two logical operators in the following manner. Instead of specifying a certain function to be performed, as the operator THEN did, the operator WHEN specified a certain time-coincidence that had to be pulled out from the data. The WHEN operator became known as being in charge of the “Encounter” function: thanks to the unfathomable computing power accumulated by years and decades of constant application of Moore’s law, networked computers of the 2020s could play with mind-boggling quantities of heterogeneous data instantaneously collected all over the world. The Carbon Hack could juggle with an equally mindboggling quantity of virtual encounters between apparently unrelated data that our so-called “smart machines” captured in our environments, thanks to the ever-increasing quantity of sensors to which they were connected since the explosion of the so-called “Internet of Things”.
According to some commentators, this narrative of a near future began in 2009, when Gregory Chatonsky displayed his “IF THEN” installation, staging “the encounter between two images randomly downloaded from Flickr and a logical articulation: and, or, implies, if…then, if and only if, only if, just in case, but, however, not both, neither…nor”. Within his Hyperproduction series, and in anticipation of his Artificial Imagination series, this disarmingly simple device allowed the most basic algorithm to “create meaning without intentionality” (Chatonsky 2009), by generating encounters between unrelated images and by imposing a ghost of causal connection upon their purely virtual relatedness.
Other commentators drew a parallel between the computational logic of the Carbon Hack and the social logic of financial derivatives, as it had been analyzed by a flurry of unorthodox (post-)Marxist thinkers during the 2010s. Financial derivatives allow operators to bind two previously unconnected potential events in our future, by contracting a bet on a certain articulation between these two unrelated events. For example: if the price of cacao paid in Abidjan goes below a certain threshold, and if the shares of the Rolex company go above a certain threshold, at a certain future date, then I agree to pay a certain amount of money; if not, I will receive this amount of money. As soon as someone is ready to enter into such a financial contract with me, a derivative is born. After the 2008 collapse of the Lehman Brothers’ bank and the sudden vanishing of the value erroneously attributed to any “subprime mortgages”, most anti-capitalist activists (rightly) denounced the toxic gambling of our planetary financial casino as irrational (although self-interested and exploitative) madness. A few unorthodox thinkers looked deeper into the practice of the derivatives, and drew more inspiring conclusions (Martin 2015; Lee & Martin 2016; Massumi 2018).
According to their analysis, a derivative binds together two realities that, on the face of it, seem unrelated to each other: the production of cacao and the market of luxury watches do not share many common properties, and are not directly bound to each other. Yet, the rise of derivatives tends increasingly to weave improbable speculative threads between such heterogeneous events and realities. These unorthodox (post-)Marxist thinkers believed this weaving merely represents and enacts the actual (even if, so far, unnoticeable) entanglements that bind together our increasingly interdependent lives.
The time-coincidence introduced by the WHEN operator injected into our smart machines by the Carbon Hack worked on the same premise. It activated potential encounters that remained virtual within our increasingly inter-operational databases (Massumi 2003)—whose dimensions had dramatically expanded under the self-propelling dynamics of big data. Through the effect of the WHEN operator built in the Carbon Hack, such virtual encounters became actualized, directly affecting the present of computing, and therefore indirectly altering our future paths of development.
The second component of the hack, which originally gave it the name of the “Selfless Selfie Hack”, provided the main function-command which had been re-routed and neutralized by transforming a commanding operator (THEN) into a conditional operator (WHEN). Once the initial condition (IF) had been given, and the derivative encounter (WHEN) had been actualized, the SELF command resulted in a certain digital snapshot that both fixed and circulated a given computational state of our unfathomably connected world. A photographic selfie captures a certain moment in a person’s life, within a certain environment, in a certain company and in a certain mood. Similarly, the Selfie Hack generated instantaneous snapshots of computational encounters between seemingly unrelated events. Instead of a visual portrait of a human person, it produced a computational portrait of a certain link within our global interrelatedness. It did so by selecting, among the quadrillions of photos stored on Instagram and its recent competitor Permagram, the image that came closest to visualizing the link in question. And, just like our personal selfies are usually made to circulate on social networks, for other humans to enjoy (or envy), similarly the Selfie Hack sent its computational snapshots back into the networks that collected big data to ever-more-smartly govern our planetary interactions.
The altered syntactic sequence of the Carbon Hack thus read like this:
IF… [a condition to be observed in the data],
WHEN… [a mere time-coincidence linking the previous condition with another one to be observed in remotely connected data],
SELF… [an datographic operation selecting a photographic snapshot of the derivated coincidence, and feeding it back into the networks].
To be fair, this narrative of a near future should really begin a lot earlier, at least as far as 1760, when a polygraph physician from Montebourg, Normandy, Charles Tiphaigne de La Roche (1722-1774) published the imaginary voyage Giphantie, in which a traveler discovers a secret island where invisible “elementary spirits” manage a system of global surveillance and control of human behaviors worldwide. It so happens that the same 1760 book provided an astonishingly precise description of the process of photography, half a century prior to its actual invention. And even if Tiphaigne fell short of giving the chemical formula of the ointment that allowed for light to be fixated on a flat support, he saw right away that one could not invent photography without transforming our lifeworld into a series of repetitive clichés. It is this automated production of clichés that the Selfie Hack mimicked and spread from the narcissistic human world to the machinic workings of computation. Whereas the light itself (photo) was imprinting itself—by itself: automatically—on a flat surface to fixate an image and circulate it into the human world, it was now the turn of computational data automatically to capture a certain correlation and fixate it into an image, ready to be reinjected and reduplicated into the networks.
The CCC members called it the Carbon Hack in order to emphasize the importance of this reduplicating feature. What counts in a selfie is less its capturing of a certain encounter in time and space, than its circulation and reduplication within the networks. The Carbon Copy dynamics touches upon the very root of the power of big data. When I make a phone call, a tweet, a purchase, a word search, a bodily motion, a snapshot of my behavior is sent to Facebook, Google, or Amazon, so that they can collect, record, compare, compute all of these carbon copies into databases whose information on our world becomes unfathomably potent. The Carbon Hack was meant to highjack these dynamics.
And, of course, the fact that the CCLF signed its only official declaration claiming responsibility of the hack under the signature of “Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzano” emphasized the centrality of Carbon Copying. After the police had violently, but hastily, broken into the homes of Catherine Quéloz and Lilian Schneiter—wrongly interpreting “Carolina” as a mashup of the names of these two founding figures of the CCC—media archaeologists soon reminded investigators that the Countess Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzano was the blind Italian writer for whom Pellegrino Turri seems to have invented carbon paper. This narrative of a near future should thus begin in 1801, when the Italian inventor devised and designed a certain “black paper” in order to complete his prototype of typewriter, constructed to help the blind Countess to communicate in secret with her friends. (A certain Ralph Wedgwood was the first to obtain a patent for Carbon Copying, but it seems that Turri was the first to devise and implement the invention (Adler 1973)—even if the story and dates remain contested.) While the countess’ “black paper” brought her the advantages of secrecy, carbon copying—which we still daily refer to in the “CC” section of our emails—has become a means to pump personal data into the massive funnels of algorithmic governance in the age of big data, since it is indeed the equivalent of an involuntary carbon copy of our every gesture which is automatically sent, collected and computed by various giphantesque agencies of (more or less benevolent) surveillance now working at the planetary scale. The Carbon Hack intended to overplay this trend in order to overload, and ultimately highjack such agencies.
Clever as they were, the CCC members hidden behind the Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzano signature fully acknowledged they could not know in advance what would be the outcome of their exploit (Galloway & Thacker 2008). They conceived and designed it as an experiment, to be launched worldwide at the 1:1 scale. It would be likely to paralyze the whole computing apparatus which organizes most of our material as well as our cultural life since the beginning of the new millennium. They reckoned that the short-circuiting of all the usual commands (THEN…) that manage our interactions would probably wreck all of our productive infrastructures, with terrible potential effects in terms of widespread shortages, famine, desperation, anger, conflicts and wars. They were ready to face this risk. Considering the business-as-usual of our current ecocidal capitalism as bound to hit a dramatic climatic wall sooner or later, they accepted to take it on themselves to accelerate the collapse of the growth-machine gone mad—(vaguely) hoping for a more promising reconstruction to take place earlier than later, while at least some of the emancipatory traditions inherited from the 1960s were still alive. At the very least, through a sudden overall paralysis of the globally interconnected and intensely computed productive apparatus, their exploit would stop, quite brutally, the delirious emission of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. They saw their Carbon Copy Liberation Front as the only practical alternative to the irresistible and irreversible victory of the Carbon Liberation Front.
What they were really hoping would happen, however—with a good amount of wishful thinking, they acknowledged, even if they used all their intelligence and skills to skew their exploit in this direction—was for enough (electrical) infrastructure to remain operational in order to launch the new computational dynamics encapsulated in the Selfie Hack and Carbon Copy features (SELF…) of their hack. Alternative correlations would be actualized, based on virtual encounters selected by an algorithm that favored unimaginable documented derivations over anticipated financial profits. The ultimate goal was to substitute the unfolding of qualitative events, enhancing the co-workings of apparently unrelated phenomena, for the merely quantitative accumulation of assets and power (Massumi 2018).
Their hope for a better future was based on aesthetic arguments. Even if their action demonstrated an amazing capacity to imagine a different future, as well as a practical means to make it happen, they strongly distrusted human imagination. They conceived their hack as a way to neutralize and short-circuit the trappings of commercially-driven human imagination. In their view, the ecocidal destiny of financial capitalism did not come, as it was often denounced at the time, from a lack of political imagination and of ethical reason—both being generally depicted as crushed under the demented self-multiplication of numbers swallowed by the algorithms of speed-trading. The deeper root of the problems, in the CCC view, came from the inner limitations of the human imagination, insofar as it is bound to be a prisoner of its own expectations and clichés. We, humans, perceive our environment through the inescapable lenses of what we are used to like or dislike; we naturally tend to select and assemble, process and recombine our sensory data along pre-existing expectations imposed by, and inherited from, our social categorizations, worldviews, ideologies, prejudices (Zerubavel 2015; Campo 2018). By itself, our “inner” imagination cannot overcome our imprisonment within our expectations.
The major claims advanced and refined by Vilém Flusser (1983; 1985) in his writings on photography and on the digital society pointed towards the virtue of technical apparatuses in order to help us overcome such limitations of our imaginations and expectations. As several theorists of esthetics and of coding have later convincingly argued (Kittler 1986; Huyghe 2012; Rasmi 2015; Masure 2017), the “documentary” nature of (analog) machinic recordings allows them automatically to capture blocks of reality, i.e., without being pre-formatted by the filters inherent to human subjectivity. The technical, documentary, capture of blocks of reality is always much richer—especially when it comes to uncovering potentially disturbing truths—than their imaginary translations in man-made discourses, narratives, arguments, descriptions, etc. Like the carbon copy invented by Pellegrino Turri in 1801, like the selfies taken by our smartphones, the computational snapshots generated by the Selfie Hack by-passed and transcended human imagination. They were documentary by nature. More precisely even: just as stated in the earlier descriptions of photography provided by Charles Tiphaigne de La Roche in 1760, the computational snapshots taken by the Selfie Hack consisted in (socialized) nature documenting itself, not so much through the tainted lenses of human subjectivities, than through the direct impression of (non-human) reality upon itself.
The personal selfies were easily denounced by reactionary thinkers as the epitome of human narcissism in its most despicable vulgarity: such spectacularised prostheses of a well-structured self, they claimed, denounced the egocidal nature of our ecocidal capitalism, which scattered our inner subjectivity at the same time as it destroyed our environment. The computational selfies generated by the CCC responded to such anxieties, by radically de-centering, de-anthropocizing and de-spectacularizing the practice of the selfie. Something was identified as a “self”, but it was an event, a mere relation, a mode—not a person, nor a substance. What truly made it into a “self” was its being acknowledged by another “self”, i.e., through the process of Carbon Copying and its reinjection back into the network. Various types of “self” coagulate in the process of computational mediation between humans, acknowledging and recognizing each other in a wide array of manners. The selfies, personal as well as computational, documented such selves, hereby introducing a surplus-value of machinic sensitivity within human subjectifications. With their exploit, the CCC members intended to show that our worlds and our workings had become too collectively intelligent to be left to the illusions and expectations of our egos, as well as to the self-destructive calculations of financial capitalism.
The Carbon Hack attempted to elevate the documentary ethics—cultivated by countless photographers, film directors and writers, during the first decades of the 20th century, with an explicitly ecological sensibility (Rasmi 2015)—from the domain of technical images to the domain of computational entanglements. It hoped to produce selfless selfies, (un)designed to surprise any form of pre-existing expectation and programming. Its main virtue consisted in re-circuiting, and therefore disturbing, the centripetal dynamics which tended to align commercially-driven imaginary expectations around a small number of massive attractors. This narrative of a near future might as well have begun in 2014, when Jonas Lund, in his installation VIP (Viewer Improved Painting), devised “a self-optimizing digital painting consisting of two large monitors in custom metal frames with a gaze tracker placed in the middle. By measuring the viewers’ gaze, VIP is continuously testing different and new compositions and color sets, and iteratively comes closer to the optimal, most viewed, most attention grabbing composition.” While in 1992 artists like Joachim Sauter and Dirk Lüsebrink would use eye-tracking, in Der Zerseher, to have the viewer’s gaze destroy the classical figurative painting and transform it into abstract art, artists in the 2010s would mobilize eye-tracking and data mining in order to display (and exorcise?) the centripetal dynamics inherent to a commercially-driven social-networked attention economy. In The Fear of Missing Out (2013), Jonas Lund thus presented an exhibition wherein, “by analyzing and categorizing a wide range of artworks, by the most successful contemporary artists, a set of instructions were generated explaining, step by step, how to make the most successful works of art.” In the New Now, he trusted neural networks to produce an “optimized artwork”, i.e., “a work that is set up for success to be liked by everyone, a work that stands out and creates diverging opinions, a work that sells, a work that asks the right questions at the right time, a work that gets 200 likes on Instagram, a work that makes you feel good” (Lund 2016). In that same year, in Predictive Art Bot, Nicolas Maigret produced a “generator of non-human artistic concepts”, powered by “an algorithm that uses current discourse as a basis to create concepts for artistic projects and, at times, prophesize absurd future trajectories for art” (Maigret 2016). In view of such works, which of course envisaged this trend of evolution from a critical and ironic perspective, even the supposedly most advanced vanguard of original creators—the world of “contemporary art” itself—could not escape from the centripetal forces of attentional traps. When commercially networked in interactive ways, human imaginary expectations form an imitative gravitational field whose movements and clichés can be fairly accurately predicted by well-designed algorithms.
It would thus be accurate to say that this narrative of near future began in 1890, when French sociologist Gabriel Tarde (1843-1904), born in Sarlat, Dordogne, published his Laws of Imitation, wherein he described human societies as organized by the magnetic powers of imitative attractors. (Of course, these dynamics had already been modelized by Benedictus Spinoza’s Ethics (1677), under the label of imitatio affectuum (Citton 2008), and our narrative of the near future might as well have begun in the Amsterdam of the 1670s.) According to Tarde, we are social beings insofar as we constantly imitate, counter-imitate (i.e., do or say the opposite of what we see and hear around us), or even anti-imitate each other (i.e., try hard not to pay attention to what others say and do). If the CCLF distinguished itself from its predecessor (and main enemy) CLF, it is through the discreet addition of the imitative-copying process, which made all the difference between them. The primary axiom of the attention economy states that attention attracts attention. Whereas the commercially-driven developments of interactive and ubiquitous computation had generated the most powerful and frightening tools to these social dynamics of cognitive and affective alignment—including by way of bi-polarization, which, as Tarde shows, remains a form of (counter-)imitation—the CCC’s ultimate goal was to reverse this trend. The selfless selfies produced and reproduced through the Carbon Hack were meant constantly to reboot human imaginations and algorithmic conditionings, by estranging them from themselves (i.e., from the inertia of their pre-existing “self”).
The wording of the claim of responsibility that accompanied the March 2016 attack by the CCLF leads us to believe that, while they were duly impressed by artistic projects of the type best illustrated by Gregory Chatonsky, Jason Lund or Nicolas Maigret, they wanted the Carbon Hack to generate a slightly different type of dynamics. Gregory Chatonsky’s “Artificial Imagination” series outsources human imagination to the power of neural networks and to the interaction of digital apparatuses, generating forms and narratives which tend to look simultaneously eerie and familiar. While Der Zerseher destroyed figurativity, Chatonsky’s work allowed for the emergence of new figures—producing objects which have been filtered, not directly through the subjectivity inherent to human imagination, but through the numerical figures emerging from human-made computations. The ultimate goal of the selfless selfies was to by-pass figurativity and figuration as such. It mobilizes the a-subjective powers of computing apparatuses in the same way as the documentary ethics mobilizes the a-subjective powers of the photographic camera: images are produced by technical (i.e., human) mediations in order to overcome the expectations and clichés inherent to the immediate workings of human imagination.
The Carbon ethics, however, reframes this basic purpose of the documentary ethics by putting a strong emphasis on the analog nature of its design. It deeply distrusts any form of digitalization, insofar as the grammatization operated in order to digitalize data already contains a pre-conditioning logic (i.e., a logos, with its segmentations, articulations, and inherent ideologies). The Carbon ethics is fundamentally Kittlerian, insofar as it values the production of noise more than the transmission of meaning in the recording of sound. The Carbon Copy attempts to minimize whatever may pre-filter the data. Of course, because it is generated by, and circulates through, digital means, it must necessarily rely on a certain sampling rate which, no matter how high the definition might be, will always have included a human decision (or limitation) to include this level of granularity (to the expense of a higher level of granularity). Insofar as it uses digital “metamedia” in their capacity to simulate analog media (a photographic camera, a magnetic tape, an argentic film) (Manovich 2012), the Carbon ethics submits itself to the rules of engagement that have been characteristic of such digital media (Huyghe 2012). This is what allowed the CCC to defend the idea that the analog noise was radically different from the digital noise (as the latter is well displayed and analyzed by Gregory Chatonsky in L’apprentissage du langage). It is the virtue of this analog noise that the Carbon Hack was geared to release.
The CCLF attempted to do so by adding a third major component to the working of the Carbon Hack. Once the computational snapshots had been taken—i.e., the application of its SELF command on encounters generated by the IF… WHEN… feature— and once it had been sent back into the networks collecting big data to ever-more-smartly govern our planetary interactions, the IMPRO phase of the hack mined the quadrillions of photos accumulated in the Instagram and Permagram database to select an actual (non-selfie) photograph taken somewhere on the planet within the time-coincidence of the WHEN encounter. It displayed this photograph on a portable device somewhere else on the planet, and accompanied it with some form of interpretive question. The person holding the device was invited to respond to this question, but only after a time-lapse of at least one minute. First, users ignored such weird and unexplained notifications, considering them as one of the countless forms of nuisance (ads, polls, ratings, consumer feedback) inherent to commercially-driven communication. Soon, however, as the hack was starting to take its toll on our productive infrastructure, one system shutting down after the other, closer attention was paid to them. First police investigators, then general users of the few networks remaining in function, started to look at the images, to read the questions, and even to respond to them. Thus started another form of communication, one single human attention devoted to one single picture at a time, with an imposed lapse of time prone to the development of “aesthetic attention” (Schaeffer 2015). This interpretive discussion of photographs of landscapes, animals and groups of people rested on “the superiority of the analog” (Massumi 2003): a certain carbon copy of a certain block of reality became the object of a certain interpretive improvisation—first individual, then collective—on the part of human attentions provided with the time to have unexpected, reflective figures emerge from what originally appeared as a meaningless ground.
This IMPRO phase was unambiguously inspired by the compositional devices crafted by musicians like Ornette Coleman, Anthony Braxton, Henry Threadgill, John Zorn, Tim Berne or Mary Halvorson. When guitarist and composer Scott Fields gathered four musicians in a German studio on December 19 and 20, 2005, he provided them with rhythmic and tonal phrasings extracted from sentences by Samuel Beckett. In this case, the WHEN-encounter derived a musical performance from a literary text. A second WHEN-encounter staged the coincidence between four improvisers estranged by the same imitation of a radically foreign and heterogeneous material. The selfless SELF operation resulted from the automatic recording and duplication of their encounter around the selfless writings of Samuel Beckett. It bore witness to the ephemeral event of a singular attractor momentarily escaping the gravitational field of centripetal musical expectations and clichés. This sort of computational tinkering—(counter-)imitating an already long tradition of creative improvised musicians (Pierrepont 2015)—had invented the Carbon Hack before the CCC even considered designing it. The IMPRO component of their operation merely expanded this studio situation onto our planetary form of collective improvisation (Flusser 1985; Citton 2016).
The CCC hacktivists openly acknowledged this inspiration by including a long quote from the liner notes of Scott Fields’ Beckett album as the core of the cryptic and elusive message through which the CCLF claimed responsibility for the March 2026 attack:
Monkey see, monkey do. Stare blankly, banana in mouth? Good enough for me, by golly. If a smidgen of imagination remained, there might be options. The well’s dry, though. No rain for years. A mechanical rocking chair? Someone will just have to squeak. Hiccup? Lay a three octave leap on the tenor. Yet liberties were taken. Mistakes were made. Acts implied were represented. No question, Bem, Bim and Bom torture and are tortured. But is it necessary to torment these musicians, not to mention the audience? Vi, Ru, and Flo move as if mourning. But why so funereal? What hubris to imply that “trashy percussion” evokes rubbish. And improvisation! All that improvisation. Anti-Beckett, if anything. I have a lot for which to answer. Pray for me. (Fields 2007)
This narrative of a very near future begins on December 15, 2017 at 3:39 pm, as several founding and future members of the CCC are currently attending this Geneva Conference celebrating the 10th anniversary of the HEAD—before starting to implement the details of the Carbon Hack. As a conclusion, I invite you to express our admiration to all the members of the CCC present in this room, so that they can receive—in homage to their past achievements and in advance of their future exploit—our applause and gratitude.
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