Conversation Patterns


Mapping dialogues.

Words by & artwork by Ana Brotas

“Art is a state of encounter, and an exhibition an arena of exchange”

Nicolas Bourriaud


Considering that etymologically, the word communication literally means “to make common”, spoken interaction occupies a key role in social spaces.


When considering a dialogical situation as a starting point, it usually means that the conversations’ content revolve around the main intended concept. However, if we extract the importance of the content and consequently the intimacy entailed, it is possible to begin rationalizing these exchanges.


Conversation Patterns is based upon the exercise of mapping the dialogue trajectory of conversations around communal encounters. This investigation was specifically conducted over a communal space which generates social interaction at an intimate level: the dinner table of my house. A shared home is composed of private and communal spaces which involve a specific dynamic that changes from household to household. The dinner table assumes the metaphorical role of a communal space in a home and, a particularly important setting to share experiences. Within a simultaneously private and social territory, this is a space that truly reflects the collective well being. The fast-paced routine of each individual had nonetheless allowed for the shared ritual of having dinner together. Sometimes not everyone could make it, sometimes guests would join in, but communication was as present as food.

For a period of one month, I proceeded to document all the conversations taking place around the dinner table by mapping the trajectories between dialogues. This repetitive action has an obsessive-compulsive characteristic of a fact-finder mission, falling somewhere  between nonsense and a pseudoscientific methodology. A cataloguing system to find what? A certain order in which we exchange words?


The notion of creating a sequence of diagrams based on linguistic relations can feel particularly frivolous. By observing conversational interactions between people, not focusing on sender, receiver or content, one can critically evaluate that the mapping tends to change the naturality of interactions. This specific exercise culminates in a manufactured reality which can be questioned. The reality of being around the table and the artists’ constructed story merge in the imaginarium. Therefore, interactions farther from memories to become data, systems, patterns. In a technological world where each human becomes a number, and actions are statistics, communications can go under scrutiny too. Intimacy is no longer intimate. The resultant patterns prevail as remainings of an ephemeral interaction, with no identity connotations attached the diagrams become a representation of a non-place and a non-event. A universal everywhere that attempts to depict human relations, regardless of languages and context. To make sense of conversation paths, this investigation pursues to map the very core of communicating, back and forth in an arena of exchange.

Ana Brotas (b. 1990) is a Portuguese visual artist interested in material and aesthetic manipulation in order to tell stories. The constant search to find appropriate forms of visual storytelling has led her to explore a wide range of mediums, consistently embracing a playful discourse that connects art with her social and ecological context.