Small Conversations, version 6, 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

Al and I met to discuss this project in late July 2012. He had attended a few of the pervious Small Conversations projects and got to know a bit about what I was interested in and my ways of working. We talked a lot about why I started this project and how I have watched it change with each new person I worked with. What is most important for each project is that I embrace this ever-changing terrain allowing it to take on a life of its own while remaining focused on how each project impacts my work and the work of my collaborators.

What we ended up with is a very reductive and candid approach that deals with many of the original reasons I started Small Conversations in 2011 when I was just out of grad school. I wanted to get to know folks around here and build paths that could impact the type of work I was going to make. This iteration of the project has become simply that, a meeting of people from various Boston arts communities. Some people that I know and some people that Al knows. There may be existing relationships within this selected group and there may not. But we are hoping for new relationships to be formed.

We chose to include a piñata filled with surprises for all participants. The piñata, in the form of a wrapped present, symbolizes a gift from Al and my Small Conversation that will be ceremoniously smashed to release its treasure and christen the relationships that will be formed tonight.

Al Miner

It has been nearly two years since I moved here from Washington, D.C. to assume the position of Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The Boston area is one of the most intellectually rich communities in the world and home to excellent university art programs and art institutions including the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum, the ICA Boston, the List Visual Arts Center at MIT, and, of course, the MFA. With those resources in mind and as a result of both my position at the museum and my track record as an artist I assumed, somewhat naively, that it would be easy for me to build a network of art world colleagues and friends here. I assumed incorrectly that a unified and energized artistic community must exist within this cultural framework and relatively small city.

I have met artists, curators, professors, collectors, and contemporary art enthusiasts, but I’ve had to track many of them down. One cannot be socially lazy in greater Boston; I’ve learned that no one will come to you. I am baffled by the low turnout at the city’s monthly First Friday gallery openings, the segregation between artist communities that exist at the different universities, and how frequently I ask a local artist about another local artist’s practice only to receive a blank stare and hear “I’ve never heard of that person.” Perhaps it’s because everyone in the art community is busy, maybe it’s New England’s social reserve, or some might be intimidated; also living in the shadow of New York can give anyone a chip on the shoulder. Nonetheless we all stand to benefit by expanding our circles and creating a more unified and, as a result, active art community here.

When John C Gonzalez and I met I expressed my disappointment and frustration with this lack of a centralized community or a “scene.” Many interactions in our lives take place because of a friend-of-a-friend, but what about the people John and I don’t have in common?  We set out to bring together people we each knew and who have rarely if ever interacted. Some of the people in this room know each other, but many do not. You are joined by one thing, your passion for art in greater Boston. Every connection made during this performance can spark further connections, which in turn can ignite anything from friendships to collaborative projects.   

The performance that forms John C Gonzalez’s and my Small Conversations 6 collaboration is an opening, but the participants are the art. Each interesting on their own, but together, united by a web of social connections, they make up one body, which is more intriguing that the sum of its parts and which, we hope, will continue to grow after the performance. 



John C Gonzalez