Chatbot Laureate

A conversation about artificial intelligence, dumb machines, and the progress of human and robotic expression.

With Lucy Ives, Nora Khan & Alexandra Kleeman 7:00 p.m. 264 Canal Street, 3W, New York, New York $7 suggested donation, free for members
$12 for entry and a copy of the book

The Amme Talks is a conversation between a writer and a milk-spilling chatbot who promises to liberate speech (and revolutionize poetry) via words that refer to nothing but themselves. To mark the publication of the book (as a paperback and ebook), novelist and former Triple Canopy editor Lucy Ives will speak with fellow writers Alexandra Kleeman and Nora Khan, both of whom have investigated artificial intelligence, dumb machines, and the progress of human and robotic expression. They’ll consider what kind of poetry can be made by programs, and whether the inventiveness of software has anything to do with the Turing test.

The Amme Talks hinges on a series of dialogues between the poet Ulf Stolterfoht and the titular bot, whose name means “wet nurse” in German. Amme is the creation of artist Peter Dittmer; she is not just a chatbot, actually, but a steel-and-glass construction with a computer interface, which is connected to a glass of milk, a robotic arm that tips over the glass, and a tube that releases water, as if urinating. For one week in 2003, Stolterfoht interrogated Amme, hoping to turn her answers into an essay on poetics. But instead of mining Amme’s performance of an idiosyncratic and mechanical form of human speech, he stumbled on a remarkable “second-order realism” in which words refer not to things but to themselves. Translator Shane Anderson, in his introduction, calls Amme “the first machine that makes poetry.”

Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. In order to ensure that events are accessible and comfortable, we’ll open the doors at 6:30 p.m. and strictly limit admittance to our legal capacity. Please check Triple Canopy’s Facebook and Twitter accounts for updates, as we’ll indicate if events are sold out.

Triple Canopy’s venue is located at 264 Canal Street, 3W, near several Canal Street subway stations. Our floor is accessible by elevator (63" × 60" car, 31" door) and stairway. Due to the age and other characteristics of the building, our bathrooms are not ADA-accessible, though several such bathrooms are located nearby. If you have specific questions about access, please write at least three days before the event and we will make every effort to accommodate you.

  • Lucy Ives is the author of many books of poetry and prose, including The Hermit (2016), the novella nineties (2013), and, most recently, the novel Impossible Views of the World (2017, published by Penguin Press. Her writing has appeared in Artforum, Lapham’s Quarterly, Bomb, Conjunctions, The New Yorker, and Triple Canopy, where she was an editor for several years.
  • Nora Khan writes fiction and creative non-fiction about digital visual culture, artificial intelligence, electronic music, and games. Her writing has been published in 4Columns, Art in America, the California Sunday Magazine, the Village Voice, Rhizome, aCCeSsions, Conjunctions, and American Literary Review. Her criticism won a Thoma Foundation 2016 Arts Writing Award in Digital Art, awarded by the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation. Khan is a contributing editor at Rhizome and a research resident at Eyebeam.
  • Alexandra Kleeman is the author of the novels Something New Under the Sun (2021) and You Too Can Have A Body Like Mine (2015), as well as the short-story collection Intimations (2016). She is the recipient of the Rome Prize, Berlin Prize, and Guggenheim Fellowship, among other awards. Her fiction has been published in the New Yorker, the Paris Review, Zoetrope, Conjunctions, and Guernica, and her essays have appeared in Harper’s, the New York Times Magazine, n+1, and the Guardian.