“Come at me faggots.” That’s how 19-year-old Mary Bond invited 4chan’s infamous /b/ board to join in an insightful critique of her art project autodissociate.me“Been a long time since good camgirl thread,” an anonymous poster replied. This might seem like a pretty sad way to start a conversation, but it’s just par for the course on /b/.

Bond wanted to know how some of the most intentionally vile commenters on the internet would rate her art project. The results were often predictable…

…but taken together rendered some surprising insights.

4chan’s /b/ can be confusing. Mostly, it’s a place for angry, lonely young men to say offensive things and trade pictures that they consider funny, offensive or hot. (And child porn.)

They are known for anointing some teenage girls as “Chans” and praising them for posting pics and choosing random young women to fuck with via doxing, hacking, stalking and etc. This has resulted in more than one enduring mental breakdown. Sometimes, /b/ would go on unprovoked offensive, as in the infamous Jessi Slaughter case. That particular one ended in tears, a mental ward, foster care and a dead father.

Enter Mary Bond’s selfies. What you see at autodissociate.me is the third installment of an ongoing generative art project, incorporating written, sourced and randomized elements in a website format. Bond’s site background is a collage of selfies (taken by her collaborator Ian Aleksander Adams) overlayed with text throughout.

Here’s what she had to say when it launched:

During our Skype sessions, Ian takes screen caps of me and uploads them to the site. He’s technically capturing/curating the images, but I’m controlling the way I present myself. We’ve started calling ‘em ‘selfies once removed.’ It’s our way of exploring the idea of ‘dissociated’ selfies, which is relevant to my interests because I have Dissociative Identity Disorder. Selfies, believe it or not, have been very therapeutic for me.

At first, the overlaid text consisted of various copied and pasted musings from the internet on the topic of the self-styled self-portrait and her own musings. “I felt like it was important to demonstrate that its not just me writing it,” Bond wrote. “It’s more of a networked response or explanation.” It is being continuously updated with disjointed quotes, comments and snarky sub-tweet run-off.

The 4chan thread is where it got interesting.

While it’s easy to see this as some high level trolling, the gesture seems to be more along the lines of  “You sad lonely boys like to pick on sad lonely girls? Why don’t you pick on someone your own size?”

It’s very long. Here’s the tl;dr breakdown:

 

INVITATION TO DIALOGUE

The gauntlet has been thrown at the feet of /b/ and has been phrased in the native tongue of the species. From here, the /b/-tards proceed to fall into a handful of categories with their responses. They tend to be fairly repetitive, but here are some select classifications.


#1: THOSE DEDICATED TO CARRY ON WITH BUSINESS AS USUAL

These gentlemen have an m.o. and they’re sticking to it. But…


#2: THE WHITE KNIGHTS
(GENUINELY INTRIGUED OR PLAYING IT REAL SMOOTH) 

(That commenter has it right.
He is a true anomaly among his tribe.)


3. SCATTERSHOT COMBINATION OF #1 AND #2

(These guys want to get in good while hedging their bets.)


#4: THEN THE INFIGHTING BEGAN

(With no true adversary they turn on each other.)


#5: THOSE ANGRY WITH THE RESULTING COGNITIVE DISSONANCE 


You got that? This is gross social networking. The art project.

The representatives of this 5th category were the ones who actually made the project a success.

They couldn’t help themselves.

Bond came in with the simple instruction to come at her (and the clarification that she was looking for a critique).

These guys just couldn’t deal with their dark corner of the internet being invaded by a moving target. The notion that anything they said was perfectly correct and inline with the goals of the project drove them crazy, for this is the space where they are supposed to be able to say anything, but at the same time mutually recognize how offensive (edgy?) they are being.

THE 4CHAN THOUGHT PROCESS, APPROXIMATED

A: “I’m saying something offensive right now. Ha I said something offensive.”
B: “Ha right aren’t people stupid for being offended by shit. I exist in a moral grey zone where
nothing is true and everything is permitted.”
A: “lulz total fag shit, I read camus too faggot”
B: “lolololol I was totally making fun of philosophy fags like you. I bet you got raped and had to read philosophy to figure out why your asshole was bleeding. Way to get the reference cum sucker.”
A: “Ahh yes. We get each other. And we are both safe and warm.”


But Mary Bond’s intrusion by as a knowing adult (who is obviously setting them up) is bothersome. Whatever they say is fine and expected.

They are lab rats running the maze of their own banality: The only way out is to not say anything at all. But to not say anything at all would be a denial of their own self — this is where they are allowed to broadcast themselves!

This simply will not do, and who is this girl who thinks she can manipulate them into situations in which THEIR identity is at risk?

4chan is sort of what Albert “philosophy fag” Camus called “an absurd creation.”

If the world were clear, art would not exist. Absurd creation, of course, also must refrain from judging and from alluding to even the slightest shadow of hope.

A pretty succinct description of the dead-eyed nihilists on /b/. The factor that arises when participating in absurd creation (according to Camus):

One recognizes one’s course by discovering the paths that stray from it.

Bond put a fork in the road and #5s of /b/ didn’t like looking at the path they’d been walking — if for no other reason, because as they look around they see that their fellow travelers are either buying into this shit, literally jerking off, or parroting the same tired variations of “whore” and “faggot” insults as they are.

Or maybe not. It definitely seems that a few looked around and saw the sadness surrounding them for just a moment.

One comment seemed to acknowledge this in its own hateful way:

Yes, anonymous user. “Distain”(sic) indeed.