Conversations That Go Too Far

By Jeremy Kreusch

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Use these cards to create interesting conversations with friends (and/or lovers). Mix structure and chaos, seriousness and levity, deep thinking and superficial tangents. Each card has a question that goes a bit too far. They are too political, too personal, or too weird.

These cards were originally developed collaboratively by MCA teaching artists for an in-museum project called Public Dialogue. Students on field trips had the opportunity to sit in comfy chairs in public spaces of the museum and interview one another on a microphone with a set of these cards.


What do conversation cards have to do with art?

Sometimes, contemporary art is too weird, personal, or political: certain topics can be difficult to talk about or even considered taboo. If you want to have meaningful conversations—about art, or just with the people that you care about—create more low stakes opportunities for conversations that push boundaries. One way we’ve tried to make that easier in the MCA galleries is by creating card games. This one is just a series of random, totally out-of-nowhere conversation prompts, very much inspired by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies.

Games and chance aren’t just fun. Hand-in-hand, they create a useful balance between structure and chaos. A game is, in some ways, just a process to follow, a designated set of instructions so that a player doesn’t have to worry about how to do a thing. Instead of worrying about the “how” of it, they are freed to consider the “what” of it. In this case, how do you talk about difficult topics? For a start, just ask one another these premade clever questions. Chance and randomness are an injection of opportunity—a relief from seriousness, a topic change, or an unexpected connection. These questions are not a sequential line of inquiry that draws down to the root of any issue. They are a menagerie of topics representing a range of seriousness and a smattering of levity.

I whole-heartedly recommend an identical approach when talking about art. Mix structure and chaos, seriousness and levity, deep thinking and superficial tangents.