Small Conversations, version 2, 2013

performance installation

Documentation from a series of performances collectively titled Small Conversations, 2011 – 13, where the artist sought out members in his community to introduce himself and develop a dialogue about creativity and expression within the context of their professions. Each project lasted 1 month and culminated in body of work and exhibition collaboratively produced by the artist and selected participants. The following statements are written by each participant.

John C Gonzalez

My motivation for beginning this project was to reach out into the city of Boston and gather the attention of individuals; strangers whom I’ve never met, who are currently striving for success in areas outside of artistic production. What is the value of creativity and what determines success in their fields? Small Conversations is an artistic endeavor that requests the creative minds of invited participants to each conceive of and choreograph a single one-month project that will utilize my abilities and limitations as an artist to assemble the ideas of each participant according to their own direction. It is my hope that when each participant returns to their respective work places, they might examine opportunities for creativity differently and for me to assimilate their ways of seeing into my future projects.

When I first sat down to talk with Russell in my studio, I realized that I was entering into a much larger conversation than that of two individuals in a room.  The issues of 40,000 people living in my neighborhood, which is also Russell’s district, were brought into my studio with him.  Even though the parameters of the project were that Russell would have the final decision as to what we would produce, if anything, there was a lot of negotiating throughout our conversation as we discussed the materials and content of the resulting work. 

I also thought Russell was brave for being willing to commit in an art project with someone he has never met before and whose ideologies and political views were unknown to him.

Russell Holmes

The conversation with John is unique.  I have many conversations with constituents in community meetings, in the grocery store, at church, or at the Statehouse.  The conversations are typically to the point.  I am questioned in regard to my position or how I will vote on an issue, or will I advocate for a particular line item in the budget, or I am challenged to resolve a specific concern in the community.  It is me or my staff that is expected to deliver a result.  This was not the case with John. I was being asked to develop a concept and have a constituent deliver.  First, this project posed its challenges because I am an engineer at heart even though I moved from engineering to Sales and to politics. I do not enjoy thinking in the abstract.  However, it was very clear from our first meeting that the "Abstract" is exactly where John enjoys spending much of his time.  John had never entered the State House before the project and I attend Art Studios only when invited to events. Yet, we pressed on. 

John showed me the work from previous conversation and stated that the artwork was not the purpose of the project but the purpose of the project was the conversation.  The artwork and the deadline created a link and reason to converse.  This too was unique. I was certain from the outset that I wanted to create a piece of art that was not just going to be simply put aside later.  I was also certain that it must speak to the challenges of our current political environment.  I wanted a piece of art that emphasized the need to focus on the three pillars that has enabled this country and the Commonwealth to separate ourselves from the rest of the pack (Education, Infrastructure, and Innovation). We have gotten distracted and turned our eyes from being the best in these areas world-wide. This has to change. We must be results driven and not divided as a nation with our emotions.

John and I discussed concepts on how this can be done but did not narrow the art to a flag until after John's first visit to the Statehouse.  I asked John to join me there so that he could get a sense of how the building works. We were nearing the end of the yearly sessions and members of the house, the senate, and the Governor are typically in the building for the mad rush of legislation that is finalized before we leave for holiday break. John was there to see the building but also see how votes occur on the House floor and a press conference by the Governor immediately after the passed Gaming Legislation. Some conversations occurs with less words and more participation.  This was one of those times. While at the Statehouse and on a tour, John and I entered the Hall of Flags.  The Hall holds the flags of the 351 towns and cities of the state. It was then that we thought it a good idea to us a flag. The flag concept enabled us to combine political perspectives in the background of the flag but emphasize the pillars of Education, Infrastructure and Innovation.

The images used are depiction of places or ideas from the district.  Education is represented by the new library, Infrastructure is represented by a trolley entering a recently renovated Ashmont Station, and the scientist represents Innovation at the Bio Labs.



John C Gonzalez