Words made flesh, muscle and bone, animated by hope and desire.
— Sylvia Wynter
Jonathan González is a Dominican-American artist, scholar, cultural organizer, and educator whose work centers on a transdisciplinary and collaborative dialogue with diasporic Black life and living. In The Smallest Unit Is Each Other, González juxtaposes original video content alongside archival ephemera, and invites the viewer to consider the smallest unit not as the individual, but as the community, understanding that we require one another for our survival. This concept is a creative directive, an organizing principle beyond the video through various media labeled SIDES A to I, each side made accessible to viewers through interaction highlighted in the choreographic scores below. The artist uses the term “sides” to reference the sides of cassette tapes: each side is only part of a whole, and the tape itself circulates through states of re-use and ownership in multiple, desired ways.
Inspired by Caribbean scholarship on humanism, González emphasizes the “archipelagic” interconnectedness of all living things. The artist draws from the teachings of Jamaican writer, dancer, and thinker Sylvia Wynter, who re-envisions storytelling as a radical exit from colonial preoccupations with the self, prioritizing culture as an art form for narrativizing otherwise social worlds. Poet Kamau Brathwaite’s insistence on breaking with the colonial pentameter, inspires the work’s surrealist assemblage, one that acts to unburden oneself from the comprehensible, and to tell differently what it is to be alive now. González choreographs these narrative possibilities across media considering all bodies, human and non-human, to describe the continuing impacts of racial capitalism, and its symptom of climate catastrophe.
Each SIDE in The Smallest Unit Is Each Other is made accessible for visitors with an attention to interaction, rest, and play. The following descriptions identify the SIDES and some choreographies for engagement:
Sides A-F: a 35:25 min film organized episodically in six ‘SIDES’.
Side G: Our Chair, a chair made available for sitting. The cushions are printed with the text, “Words made flesh muscle and bone animated by hope and desire.”
Side H: a controller automating the film to stop, play, pause, fast forward, rewind, start from the beginning, and randomize when more than one button is pressed. It is on the floor at the base of Our Chair.
Side I: a topographical model made of cherry wood sits atop its own legs adjacent to the chair and is made available for touch. The topography depicts the historic site of Cockpit Country, Jamaica, site of a community of Accompong Maroons (formerly enslaved Africans and their descendants).
Yemi Amu, Rena Anakwe, Rudy Gerson, Chazz Giovanni Bruce, Shannon Finnegan, Gil Sperling, Branden Kazon-Maddox
Jonathan González is a 2020-21 resident of BRIClab: Video Art, an initiative that offers New York based emerging and mid-career artists essential resources, mentorships, and opportunities to share their work. The residency aims to build a stronger and more diverse artistic community in Brooklyn by supporting long term growth and fostering relationships across disciplines.