Birgit Kempker, Sphinx, 2004 – ongoing, screenshot

Birgit Kempker, Sphinx

Year: 2004 –
Type: Internet Interactive Net Art Participatory
Dimension: Variable
Credits: Design: Reinhard Storz, Birgit Kempker; Programming: Peter Dittmer, Arnold von Wedemeyer, Marc Lee, Producer:, [] Sphinx is a contribution to 56kTV – bastard channel, a project by Pro Helvetia and xcult.
Acquisition: Permanent loan from the Digital Art Collection, Basel (Annette Schindler and Reinhard Storz), 2017. Inv. No. S0035.
Artwork Link:
Artist Website:

Birgit Kempker, Sphinx, 2004 – ongoing, screenshot
Birgit Kempker, Sphinx, 2004 – ongoing, screenshot
Birgit Kempker, Sphinx, 2004 – ongoing, screenshot

Sphinx is an interactive literary platform that went online in 2004. Users can pose the  most diverse questions and expect an individual, oulipoetic response. Oulipoetic is short for Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle, a workshop for potential literature in which Birgit Kempker has found the basic verse form for her responses: The sestina verse of Baroque lyrics, with its six stanzas of six lines each.

The Sphinx is put to the test both as fortuneteller and omniscient thinking machine; she is consulted on matters of love and on philosophical topics, as well as on dates for future discussions. Her answers reflect the diversity of questions and are rarely clear; most often they are humorous, and they always are semantically ambiguous and enigmatic. Unlike the Sphinx of Greek mythology, whose gaze was deadly to the traveler who could not answer her riddle, here one survives the direct gaze into one of the blue eyes on the homepage, the rest of the face remaining hidden behind the perforated surface. Not only are you guaranteed to live through this visual contact; there is another contact – a poetic confrontation via the Internet. For this Sphinx, the  longing for guaranteed unambiguity is unrequited, as her answer is the riddle.

(Text: Bettina Back)

Artist Bio

Birgit Kempker (*1956), Wuppertal, Germany, lives in Basel, Switzerland.

She works with all artistic forms that employ language. Her artistic interventions take the form of prose and essays, exhibitions and – with a special passion – audio works and lyrics. She teaches at several colleges and writes texts for and about art. She has published works in numerous anthologies, particularly in the field of art. Her works include translations, reflections and Web projects, going back to her 2004 creation, Sphinx. She is a lecturer at the Institute of Art Basel, Literature Institute Biel and F+F, School of Art and Design, Zurich.