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Peter Dittmer

15 Dec 2006 - 04 Mar 2007

Peter Dittmer
Die Amme

The unusual project by Berlin artist Peter Dittmer, Die Amme [The Wet Nurse], unites art, technical equipment and communication. Die Amme is an automaton capable of speech that, in keeping with its name, spills milk. This takes place during interaction with the public: a glass of milk at the end of the robot’s arm is unexpectedly poured out having been caused by a linguistic impulse originating with the user. The public, using language entered by means of a keyboard, must literally talk the Amme into making the mechanically simple though technically complex and thus grotesque-looking gestures. Free form dialogues take place between humans and machine that deals with you and I, talking and doing, desiring and failing, arrogation and power.

“Don’t act, talk”. This is the command given to a robot that was originally intended to serve when, in the process of negotiating the handing over of the milk, it refuses the public’s orders. The artificial being displays an astounding articulacy and surprises with its jokes, quick-wittedness and esprit. From time to time heated word duels excite the argumentative ambitions of the “conversational partners”, spurring on statement and contradiction, provoking a rhetorical game and encouraging finesse and feints. Discourses come into being that could be word clashes, Dada, dirty or small talk. One of the, on average, one-and-a-half hour “conversations” testify to their philosophical depth or touch one with their peculiar poetry. In the process the Amme is characterised by an unmistakable linguistic gestus that gives its opportunistic, awkward nature almost human traits.

At 5 “conversation tables”, in parallel or jointly, visitors communicate with the automaton that is housed in an installative casing. It is controlled by an ingenious computer programme which has been continuously perfected since 1992 and which, in the meantime, possesses over 320,000 answer modules that are constantly fed by the interaction. Accompanying the conversation are “Angstgläser [fear glasses]” that fill and empty, pumping processes, shower attacks or sound and light effects, all dramaturgical means for the wayward machine to express its “emotional state”. In the fifth version of the Amme Peter Dittmer pushes the conceptually conceived disproportional relationship between the extremely high level of technical input and the relatively laconic effects to extremes and analyses linguistic intelligence and communicative abilities.

Susanne Neuburger