Andrew Brenza’s “Automatic Souls”: a review

In the afterword to Automatic Souls, Andrew Brenza describes the structure of his work as imparting “the delusion of meaning” on the reader. Consisting of enthralling typographic glyphs paired on the page with sparse, impactful text, the experience of reading/viewing this work is defined precisely by that nebulous thing we call “meaning”. To what extent are the images and text related to one another? Should one allow the text to create any kind of linear, narrative effect on the experience? This work is highly interpretable, and it is in that fact that one can find its efficacy.

Automatic Souls begins with a kind of formality and elegance: defined, circumscribed images with text placed neatly below. Some of the book’s greatest moments (in my view) come from these situations – sparse, emotionally resonant textual lines (“the fact of body / not enough light”) are paired (?) with images which both defy and illuminate meaning. As the work progresses, the clear relationship between image and text is revealed to be, if not artificial, then at the very least highly malleable – by the end of the final section, images of typographic humanoids fly chaotically across the pages, with the text fitting in wherever it can find some room. As such, the meaning breaks down, finds its limit, and is exposed (as Brenza says) as “delusion”.

Creating work which plays with the ambiguous nature of knowledge and meaning can certainly be a difficult needle to thread. Too often one descends into pointless nihilism, or obscurity for its own sake. This is not the case with Brenza’s Automatic Souls – not only is there an earnest vitality to this work’s exploration of meaning, but there is a visceral beauty as well. It is a highly noteworthy book, and for all of those who enjoy true experimentation, it comes highly recommended.

– Ethan Vilu

Andrew Brenza’s “Automatic Souls” is available in an edition of 99 from Timglaset Editions.