Old-fashioned print seduction in The Art of Conversation

by Kitty Drake in May 2019
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Art & design

Designed like an old-fashioned broadsheet newspaper, the most striking thing about The Art of Conversation is its size: every page-turn becomes a ginormous undertaking, as you get twisted up in the paper’s folds, and big swathes of its insides fall out. Opening the whole thing out and starting to read makes you nostalgic for the time when all the Sunday papers were this much hassle. But it’s also strangely jarring, because there are no op-eds and headlines and front-page features on these pages: The Art of Conversation is entirely made up of Q&A’s.

All the conversations are between artists, and they’re printed completely verbatim: the ‘umms’ and ‘ahs’ and self-contradictions we take for granted in speech have been faithfully transcribed. This is indulgent, but charming, and makes for an unusual degree of honesty. At one point, the screenwriter Peter Morgan asks artist Erwin Wurm if he had to choose between his work, his family, and his health, which would he give up.

Serious quotes are pulled out in spikey speech bubbles, and the large format provides ample space for photos, which are unusually tactile: a man is shown arranging three fat oranges using only his forehead; a huge yellow smiley face ball is pictured squished between two buildings on a narrow street. It’s as though, to make up for trapping something as immediate as a conversation on the printed page, the reading experience has been transformed into something extravagantly physical.


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