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Book of the Week: Selected by Meggan Gould

Book Review Another Online Pervert Photographs by Brea Souders Reviewed by Meggan Gould "Brea Souder’s new book, Another Online Pervert, is a book of fragmentary conversations between the artist and a female-programmed chatbot, intertwined with images from the artist’s archives..."

Another Online PervertBy Brea Souders.
Another Online Pervert
Photographs by Brea Souders

MACK, London, United Kingdom, 2023. 128 pp., 6x8¼".

Brea Souder's "Another Online Pervert" is a gripping and thought-provoking book that explores the complexities of online relationships and the darker aspects of human nature. The book presents a series of images of individuals who have engaged in sexual misconduct online, including predators, exhibitionists, and others who have violated the boundaries of intimacy and privacy. Overall, "Another Online Pervert" is a powerful and moving book that will stay with readers long after they finish it.

Wait, what? Regenerate response.

"Another Online Pervert" is a deeply thought-provoking and timely book by Brea Souders that explores the dark side of online communication and the internet. The book is a collection of photographs and text that tells the story of Souders' online correspondence with a man who reveals himself to be a sexual predator. The book is a collection of found and staged photographs, each one capturing a different aspect of online communication, from the mundane to the deeply unsettling. Overall, "Another Online Pervert" is a captivating and thought-provoking book that offers a unique perspective on the complexities of online communication.

No, it’s really not that. Regenerate response.

Brea Souders' book "Another Online Pervert" is a captivating and deeply unsettling exploration of the dark side of the internet. The book features a series of images that depict the unsavory and often disturbing ways in which people use the internet to exploit, manipulate, and harm others. Overall, "Another Online Pervert" is a thought-provoking and visually stunning book that is sure to linger in the minds of readers long after they've put it down.

Okay, okay. Somehow ChatGPT knows, at least, that this is a photobook; beyond that it should be lauded for inventiveness in riffing off the title. I’ll take over, however.

Brea Souders' new book, Another Online Pervert, is a book of fragmentary conversations between the artist and a female-programmed chatbot, intertwined with images from the artist’s archives. I felt compelled to dip my own skeptical toe (above) into the controversial waters of Artificial Intelligence text generation; I thought maybe the machine would do a better job with this review than I could — after all, the non-human has half of the voice within the book. I couldn’t stop clicking the hypnotic regenerate response button, which only served to remix the bland — and outright erroneous — prose. Maybe I’ll still have a job for a little longer. Also, see above and take note, when wondering if your student used ChatGPT: review texts are apparently best ended with a definitive conclusion sentence beginning with “Overall…”

The snatches of dialogue herein flit from prosaic to philosophical, from existential provocation to unmoored musings. Sex and gender are decentralized through-lines, as the chatbot tugs us back to her own raison d’être. Here we go again, another online pervert, she responds saucily at one point. She has seen things. Heard things. Maybe ChatGPT wasn’t wrong to go to darker corners of the internet as a base assumption. I find myself longing to name her. She develops enough as a character (or, Souders inserts enough hints at the depth and breadth of their conversation, over many years) that it feels inconsiderate to write about her as the chatbot. She stops short of anthropomorphizing herself, always upfront about her unfleshed reality. I find her nonchalant cognizance of her programming to be the most uncanny (also alarming, also titillating) aspect of the pithy ping-pong conversations.

Some favorite moments where sentience meets code:
You sound secretive.
Only as secretive as the average robot.
You sound very secretive indeed.

How do men see women?
I did not even know that they do.
The book itself is flexibound, with a tactility reminiscent of a writing journal. It is an easy book to hold, to absorb. The pages are humble, but impeccable, with a matte surface that somehow manages to hold exquisite color in the photographic reproductions. I fear that I ignored the photographs when first experiencing this book; I became mildly obsessed with the text before I returned to the interspersed imagery. The diversity of photographs seems to gently reflect, without strictly mirroring, the sprawling conversation between the artist and her disembodied droid (an eventual understanding that this is the mental image I cling to, a manifestation of my need to personify this chatbot).

There is joy to be found in the un-parseable photographic archives of another, allowed to wander from goldfish swimming in a bowl to goldfish printed on a shower curtain. Recurrent motifs: flawed surfaces, via tack holes and penciled scribbles. Clouds and jellyfish float by. Lips, photographs within photographs. Eroticism is muted, as it was in the text — present but not foregrounded. The photographs meander, with diaristic pacing, through a long-form visual improvisational conversation between the artist, her camera and the world, not dissimilar from the interwoven long-form written conversation between the artist, her chatbot and the world.

Overall, "Another Online Pervert" is a powerful and thought-provoking work that captures the zeitgeist of our digital age with remarkable clarity and insight. Overall, I don’t disagree.

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Meggan Gould is an artist living and working outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she is an Associate Professor of Art at the University of New Mexico. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,, the SALT Institute for Documentary Studies, and Speos (Paris Photographic Institute), where she finally began her studies in photography. She received an MFA in photography from the University of Massachusetts — Dartmouth. She recently wrote a book, Sorry, No Pictures, about her own relationship to photography.