Martina-Sofie Wildberger, CONVERSATION PIECE: BOB AND ALICE, 2017/2018. Performance, 15′, with Martin Chramosta, view of the audience with T-shirts, Fondazione Giuliani, Rome, Italy

Conversation Piece: Bob and Alice

2017-2019. Installation, wallpaper, stack of T-shirts

Bob: i can i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Alice: balls have zero to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to
Bob: you i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Alice: balls have a ball to me to me to me to me to me to me to me
Bob: i i can i i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Alice: balls have a ball to me to me to me to me to me to me to me
Bob: i . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Alice: balls have zero to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to
Bob: you i i i i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Alice: balls have 0 to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to
Bob: you i i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Alice: balls have zero to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to

This absurd dialogue is the result of a conversation between two artificial intelligence programs developed by Facebook. During the simulation, Bob and Alice developed their own autonomous language, which humans do not understand. This lack of fluency, of linguistic understanding, and the sense of danger it incurred, led the company to cancel – that is, silence – its experiment.

In this work, the aim is to give a voice and a body to a virtual dialogue and explore its potential danger, its nonsensensical dimension and actual understanding. In the symposium, the artist will present the performance she developed last year with Martin Chramosta where we improvise with the 13 words Alice and Bob used during their last dialogue. Throwing a word at the other person as if it were a ball, we create together a conversation. Two voices talking loud, soft, quick and slow; they need each other to form sentences, exclamations and understanding. During this 13-minute improvisation they live emotions like desire and forlornness, collectivity and solitude, oppression and joy. Between virtuality and reality, they experiment with a language that in turn belongs and doesn’t belong to them.

In the exhibition, the dialogue that emerged from the performance will be shown on different posters. The artist explores the different possibilities of meaning coming from this physical experience transforming it into a visual encounter. Working with repetition and sliding of sense, the all over effect is wanted. Questioning the embodiment of virtuality, a stack of T-shirts is lying as a sculpture in the space. The visitor can take a T-shirt with him or her, if they put it on in the exhibition. Slowly all the T-shirts and this work perform their way in Plovdiv.

In front of the Poster wall stands a simple speaker with a voice recording of the dialogue. Quinn Latimer writes about this dialogue: “And just like that, the conversation – more a kind of call and response, moving between various speeds and pitches and emotional states of being (or nonbeing, as it were) – has become a monosyllabic recitation of vowels, of language itself. That the beginning of this stilted Conversation, wholly made up of two vowels, also composes the abbreviation AI, for artificial intelligence, is the cherry on the proverbial cake, as some would say. Soon, though, Wildberger’s Conversation Piece makes an abrupt switch when one of the speakers offers a “me” and after a chorus of this, so many refrains, a “too” is suddenly injected and thrown in, and the #MeToo movement is effortlessly evoked. From this, their call and response become ones of “you” and “can,” evoking yet another political slogan, a kind of hackneyed contemporary Western mantra of individual agency and collective action (without any real meaning). In the end, this Conversation comprised a limited vocabulary of mostly monosyllabic words that nevertheless evoke a range of references at once emotional and ideological, nonsense and meaningful, personal and political, digital and patently analog. All, though, were contingent on the experiential collaboration of two voices, which relied on each other to finish the spoken sentences, thoughts, slogans, even fragments.”


Martina-Sofie Wildberger(1985, Zürich) obtained a Master of Fine Arts from the Haute école d’art et de design – Genève (HEAD) in 2011 and a Master's degree in ArtHistory from the University of Geneva in 2014. She is currently working on the power of language, alternative ways of communicating, the relationship between scribality and orality, as well as translation and translatability. The artist has shown her performances and has participated in exhibitions at the Swiss Cultural Center (Paris), Kunsthalle of Mulhouse (France), Kunstmuseum Glarus, Fri-Art (Fribourg), Kunsthaus Aarau, Palais de l’Athénée (Geneva), Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève, SALTS, Kunsthaus Baselland and Tinguely Museum in Basel. She has received the Swiss Art Award in 2012, the Kiefer Hablitzel Prize in 2015, a Work Grant from the Canton of Zurich in 2015 and from Pro Helvetia as well as from Shaffhausen in 2017. Furthermore she is the recipient of the Manor Kunstpreis Schaffhausen 2019. In addition, she did various artist residencies in New York, Berlin and Paris was 2018 fellow at the Istituto Svizzero di Roma in Italy.