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Talk: Issue Three

Work / Publication

Talk: a magazine reimagining debates surrounding commercial art

Talk magazine is, perhaps unsurprisingly, all about championing dialogue and debate. Now on its third issue, Talk was initially established by Harry Gassel and Eric Hu to catalogue modern-day art and ideas in the context of a contemporary and authentic voice. Through its experimental and unconventional layouts, Talk looks to challenge the traditionally rigid boundaries between art and markets, high and low culture, and design and theory. In so doing, Talk offers an alternative space in which conversations about and around the contemporary creative industry can occur.

Commercial art, in particular, is what Talk is hoping to reimagine. Commercialism is a topic rarely explored, celebrated or covered in culture publications, but Talk’s founders believe in the creative merit of profit-driven art. The magazine was, in large part, set up in response to the “lo-fi production, risographing, black and white or single colour designs” that have become popular over the past few years. Instead, Talk embraces and celebrates the perceived glossiness of commercial publications. It is through Talk’s sleek, innovative and playfully designed pages that the two editors, Harry Gassel and Raf Rennie — who both studied design at their respective universities — explore and foster the cultural debates of our day.

Past issues of Talk have, for example, reflected on the consequences that our society’s fetishisation of ‘cuteness’ has had on art and design, and have included interviews with comedian and actor Cole Escola and artist Seth Price. In the latest issue, Harry and Raf have compiled the most impressive line-up yet, with contributions from the likes of Eva O’Leary, Jarrod Turner, Angela Dimayuga and Berton Hasabe. We catch up with the duo to find out a little bit more about issue three of Talk:

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Talk: Issue Three

Thanks for taking the time out to chat to us. First off, how did Talk come about?

Harry Gassel: I started Talk about three years ago with Eric Hu who has since moved on from the project. We were sharing a studio at that time, and initially, we just saw an opportunity to show off the work of our peers, start cataloguing our generation’s work in our own voice. In particular, we noticed a shift in the thought around the broader topic of style, and we thought we could start committing some of it to print for posterity. When you think about periods in graphic design, one or two magazines from the era always come up, from Typographische Monatsblätter to Dot Dot Dot. And we wanted to actively influence that conversation. So at its heart, Talk is a commercial art trade magazine. I think of the old Print’s or Idea’s with their type foundry and commercial printer ads that were totally out there visually in order to show technique. That also just seemed like a fun magazine to make, and I’d just left The Fader and was looking for a new editorial project to sink my teeth into.

How do you go about selecting the artists you feature?

Raf Rennie: I think we’re most interested in artists that engage with or possess some kind of plurality. Talk, for its name, is really first and foremost about an open conversation, and we don’t want to dictate or deliver strict understandings of things. In the way we want to play with the format of a magazine that tightropes what we see as the traditional forms of an art publication, a theory journal, and a glossy magazine, we’re also interested in any creative people, artists, performers, comedians, designers, stylists, who all engage in a practice that is not easily defined by comparing it to the rest of its field.

HG: It’s a pretty organic process. We generally just keep a shared document of ideas going. Almost every contribution starts with an extensive conversation. We view it very much a platform for facilitating a dialogue between various creatives and fostering new, challenging work. Everything is commissioned, so we don’t run portfolios without extensive context, like we’ll show older images in order to illustrate a new piece of writing sometimes, but even then, for the most part, we look for new work that we can help tailor to the specific physical pages and context of our magazine.

How does the magazine’s design inform Talk’s content and its “commercial art focus on the politics of style”?

HG: I mean, it probably goes without saying that design is pretty active, sometimes it really leads. For the interview I did with Dinamo and Wei Huang in Issue 03, the design serves as this kind of all-over-the-place type specimen for their respective work. A piece like that owes a lot to something like Emigre and that New Discourse Cranbrook stuff where the design and the content are inseparable. Other times, it’s just fun to play with strict and not-so-strict editorial conventions that get real nerdy with type systems and grids.

RR: I think we’re just interested in creative labour, and that includes the artist in their studio, the art assistant producing the work for someone else, the art photographer and commercial product photography, chefs and food stylists, designers and typographers, the full spectrum. We call out commercial art specifically because I feel it’s the area of creative labour that is most often left out of theoretical discussions. Often these conversations about politics and creative labour remain niche and focused on people within an art practice, including in design — which seems to become a point of crisis of identity in the designer who compartmentalizes their “day job” and their “interests”.

How has Talk evolved over the past three issues?

HG: I think Issue 03 answers a lot of the questions we asked in 01 and 02. Hopefully with the next one we continue to evolve, but I like the mix of spontaneous and systematic we’ve ultimately landed on with this one. And we’re also starting a full content site, so look out for that.

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