Table Talk

091213bigdeal054Table Talk is a participatory public art installation, a roving pop-up whist parlour, and a place to get to know people through an old card game called Minnesota Whist. Table Talk’s bright chairs and tables create a welcoming, temporary game space where players can encounter and get to know strangers through learning and teaching Whist. Participants leave knowing a new game (despite its name and earlier popularity, Minnesota Whist is largely unknown to most Minnesotans today) and having created the beginnings of friendship with strangers who live in their community.

Visit Whist Parlour, the Table Talk companion blog to see more press coverage, stories and photos.

“Talking across the table” is forbidden in partner card games… it means talking to your partner about what you have in your hand or what you plan to do on your next turn. Table Talk takes this rule and turns it on its head– through playing Whist with strangers, the game calls out the ways we communicate without speaking, and making us very much aware of our partner’s presence and expressions as we try to anticipate their next move.


This kind of partner play gives us access to strangers that we don’t usually have: permission to gaze at them, study their faces, communicate with our body language and expressions. The game makes it necessary to take risks in this kind of communication, rapidly building rapport and trust.


Playing games together also creates a space where we’re encouraged to acquire and give trust to our fellow players. Even when our opponents may beat us at the game, we feel satisfaction from playing by the same rules and engaging in a common struggle.


The four people at the Whist table celebrate wins and give voice to losses together that aren’t understood by those not following the game. In those shared experiences we find intimacy and possibility for knowing each other that is deeply special and often rare in daily life.

Table Talk was originally funded by Irrigate through a grant by ARTPLACE America. Presenting venues and partners include Minneapolis Institute for the Arts, Hennepin History Museum, Mississippi River Fund, Works Progress Studio, and Rock Star Supply Co.

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