Small Conversations, version 7, 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.

Here the artist met with a local artist, Celine Browning, working in Somerville, MA to swap studio spaces for the duration of our project. Separately they created a set of sculptures in the other’s studio space using whatever materials they could find in that space, and then exhibited the works together. The following statements written in our own words.

John C Gonzalez

In its seventh iteration, I met with local artist Celine Browning to produce an exhibition that is the culmination of an idea we came up with early on into the project. We discussed the idea of switching studios for a day. For this exhibition we created separate works in isolation. While she was away, I traveled to her studio is Somerville and created several small sculptures with the materials available to me. During this time Celine worked alone in my studio to create a single sculptural work with the materials available to her.

I was intrigued by the thought of working in a new place within a space and with materials that were totally unknown to me. The construction of a specific social aesthetic between us is at the core of each Small Conversation. The unexpected and limited choices we were confronted with in each other’s workspace highlighted a simple but central question haunts every creative endeavor – “What to make?” What is interesting for me is to see, as artists, is how we individually answer this question, and how we plan for it, anticipate a response, and the way that our future work and thought trajectories are affected by these decisions.

Celine Browning

The giving and receiving of studio keys at the beginning of this project made me think of rib spreaders exposing something hot and raw—it seemed like a taboo, like I was digging around in someone else’s brain. I see my studio as an outward expression of my innermost self, and allowing someone unrestricted access to this personal, contemplative, and creative space was an uncomfortable yet thrilling experience. Leaving my own little room, I found a desolate, quiet, expansive, honest and wonderfully bare space. While John and I never spoke about the work we were doing in one another’s studios, I felt the echo of his work in both spaces, and the resulting work feels deeply collaborative.


Before the studio swap, John and I visited one another’s studio space. The purpose of this visit was to show one another around, establish ground rules, and ask questions. When John first walked into my space, he asked me, “Do you have any paint? How many colors are there?” Both questions caught me off guard-- as a sculptor and chronic chromatophobe the only paints I had on hand were muted greens, blacks and whites, along with one florescent orange can that I had bought to match a traffic cone. When I visited John’s space, my first questions were “Do you have a jigsaw? Where do you keep your scrap wood?” These first questions were little windows into our own practices, tiny ciphers into the visual language we use when working in our own studios.


I expected that working in an unfamiliar environment without the tools and materials I had come to rely on would be a cleansing experience, ridding me of some of the baggage that I brought into my own studio with me every day. To my surprise, I found that the day I spent in John’s studio allowed me to rediscover the core of my own practice.



John C Gonzalez