#SOPHYGRAY – a Feminist Voice Chat Bot (2022)

Nadja Verena Marcin in collaboration with Alex Stachowiak

SOPHYGRAY, 2023 (c) Nadja Verena Marcin & Bildkunst AG; video-stills: WRO Art Center
SOPHYGRAY, 2023 (c) Nadja Verena Marcin & Bildkunst AG; video-stills: WRO Art Center

Recently awarded the European Union Prize for Citizen Science Honorary Mention by Ars Electronica, #SOPHYGRAY is a feminist audio bot app that answers questions in surprising, philosophical, and humorous ways informed by intersectional feminist perspectives.

Presented as immersive installation in the exhibition context or as an app for mobile devices - try it out at www.sophygray.com - she/he/it challenges assumptions about virtual assistants (Alexa, Siri) and their typically feminine, submissive voices that reinforce stereotypes, gender roles, and power hierarchies and reflect a patriarchal culture, as well as objectification within gendered technologies.

When you talk to SOPHY, you train them, shape them, and teach them new knowledge. Its creators are committed to creating counter-narratives to overcome gender biases in today's technologies and stereotypes enforced by common language use. A moderated knowledge base and learning features are put in place to capture and disseminate intersectional feminist thinking globally.

Based on the intersectional feminist philosophy of Silvia Federici, Donna Haraway, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Anna Lowenhaupt-Tsing, Legacy Russell, and many others, SOPHY's conversational skills are developed by rotating writers, including Sonja Borstner (Gropiusbau), Leon Menschede (Burg Giebichenstein), Anthony Huffman (Brooklyn Rail), Shuang Cai (NYU), and Monique Machicao (Kleine Humboldtgalerie), as well as the input of everyday people.

Regular workshops – thus far in Athens, New York, and Berlin – are held with local participants who become feminist bot developers by writing entries and contributing to the bot's ever-growing library. Upon invitation, the bot returns to the exhibition space as an analog performance reincarnation, embodied by the artist and two dancers - new collaborations at each of the exhibition venues.

In 2023, SOPHY's app was presented as part of the EMAP residency at Onassis Stegi, at Platform Glitch Aesthetics at Digitalvilla Potsdam, and at Ars Electronica in Linz; the immersive installation and performance and was shown at the 20th WRO Media Art Biennale. Their next presentations will take them to Berlin and New York in 2024. SOPHY currently speaks English, German, Greek, Polish and Ukrainian.

SOPHYGRAY is an installation, performance, mobile app, and research project by Nadja Verena Marcin. During each part, a growing pool of creators contributed:

Web-based App - 2023:

Developer: Alex Stachowiak; Audio-Bot Writers: Anthony Huffman, Monique Machicao, Shuang Cai, Anastasia Diavasti, Naomi Frisso, Andromache Kokkinou, Elektra Tsakalia, Vivi Papanikola, Olga Vereli, Irene Stenioti, Shiromi Naskrent, Eléonore Dées de Sterio, Andrea Berke; Support & Feedback: Novatec, Daphne Dragona, Katerina Varda, Heracles Papatheodorou; Translation: Nari Kutlubasis & Maryna Didenko of WRO-Biennale; Concept, Art Director & Editor: Nadja Verena Marcin

Performance – 2022/23:

Dancers: Maja Kowalik & Viola Cantù (Essen); Penny Eleftheriadou & Anna Apergi (Athens), Dasha Bogdan & Sofiia Onishchenko (Wroclaw); Costumes: Le Costume/ Uljana Richter; Music: Performance Soundtrack Metropolis; Concept, Art Director & Lecture-Performance: Nadja Verena Marcin

Prototype App – 2021/22:

Developer: Novatec; Consultant & Adviser: Jason Basset; Videographer: Adèle Perrin; Choreography: Lena Strützke; Sculpture Production: BetonIdee; Research: Elisa Tinterri, Mengxi Lyu; Audio-Bot Writers: Sonja Borstner, Leon Meschede; Concept, Art Director & Video-Performance: Nadja Verena Marcin


SOPHYGRAY is made possible by EMAP/EMARE residency at Onassis Stegi as part of the European Media Art Platform (EMAP) residency program, which is co-funded by the European Union as well as the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature, fiscally sponsored by the New York Foundation for the Arts. It is sponsored by Novatec and supported by the Ministry of Culture North Rhine-Westphalia, NEUSTART KULTUR by the BBK Bundesverband and the BKM - German Federal Culture Commissioner as well as Stiftung Kunstfonds in Bonn.