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Plexus International 1985
The Lower East Side of New York

On January 16 of 1985, Angiola Churchill, co-director of the International Center for Advanced Studies in Art at New York University and chairperson of the NYU Department of Art and Art Education, invited Sandro Dernini to have for her NYU course Art  & Ideas a lecture entitled: The Artist in the First Person.

From The Artist in the First Person by Sandro Dernini:

“The artist in the first person” means an artist without mediators. This lecture is made as a direct dialogue between artists and audience. I will not speak about the artists and their artworks who collaborated with me in the Plexus performance space and in the Shuttle Theatre. Instead, they will introduce directly their artworks. Today, the mediators of the art market are making it difficult for the artists to have a dialogue with the audience. They are separating also the artists from their own art works as well as from the community.The art market is creating the figure of “the artist in the third person”, who just follows production orders, like a slave. The economic value of an art work just as a commodity is becoming now the only measure of the artist’s value.These art “market-Isms” are conditioning  the development of new experimental art works, the same that is happening in the scientific research.The research in art as well as in science cannot depend only from the market needs. These interferences are killing the creative process necessary for new art works. The freedom of the experimental art process has to be defended. Art schools, art departments, community-based cultural houses and art spaces should be the places where the freedom of the artist to research should be preserved. This is what I am trying to do, in  first person. It is critical to remember that an artist may survive without the market, but the art market cannot exist without the artists producing artworks to be traded and sold in the market.

Then, Ralston Farina,  Paolo Buggiani, William Parker, Ken Hiratsuka,  Peter Grass,  Joan Waltermath,  Willoughby Sharp,  Luca Pizzorno, Arleen Schloss,  Julius Klein,  Leo Panar,  James Mc Coy,  Amir Bey,  Liz and Val,  Snoky Tate, performed short presentations, one after the other. This collective lecture-performance ended with a general feast, when Gianni Villella, a sociologist friend of Sandro, arrived with two plates of freselle, a typical southern Italian dried bread from Calabria, covered with fresh tomatoes, hand made mozzarella and fresh olive and basil.  It created an unique interactive environment made by students, professors, artists and audience mixed together.  After, Angiola Churchill offered to Sandro Dernini to be a graduate assistant in the Ph.D. program of the NYU Department of Art and Art Education.

In February of 1985,  on the occasion of DADA, a two weeks poetry music workshop staged by Valery Oisteanuat the Shuttle Theatre, Nilda Cortez, director  of CUANDO,  a community civic cultural center, invited Sandro Dernini to organize there some events. C.U.A.N.D.O.(Culturas Unidas Aspireran Nuestro Destino Original) was located on 9 Second Avenue, on the corner of Houston Street and the Bowery, in a big 5 floors building, where in the mid of the century there was  the Church of All Nations. After the Church stopped its activities, the building was left in abandon. Then, in early 70’s a group of Puerto Rican community people, among them Carlos Diaz and Tony Feliciano,  moved in and they started to develop there a community cultural center, C.U.A.N.D.O., with recreational activities for children. Also, some cultural groups, like The Family Theatre Company of Felix Camillo and the Alfa Omega 1-7 Theatrical Dance Company of Donald Prat, moved in.  The huge building was in very bad conditions, there was a big gym, kept in good shape, a chapel with an organ from the old church, an incredible long dry swimming pool in the basement, a roof garden with a playground with a cover gate, and many other rooms. In May of 1985, in the chapel of C.U.A.N.D.O., it was staged the Third Lower East Side Music Festival, in collaboration with Sound Unity, Plexus/Shuttle and the Lower East Side Community Music Workshop. It featured: Roy Campbell and Wiliam Hooker Duo, Jeanne Lee and Voices, William Parker Septet, Christi-Hellen-Kral Trio, Jeemel Moondoc Quartet with Bern Nix-William Parker-Ed Blackwell, Luther Thomas Quintet, Bangception with Billy Bang and Dennis Charles, WilberForce with Eli Fountain-Vincent Chauncy-Wilber Morris, Trio with Wayne Horvits-Bobby Previte-Butch Morris, Frank Lowe Trio, Rashid Al Akbar Trio, James Oliver Jones, Jr. and Ethica with Myrna Renaud-Rashid Al Akbar, Roy Campbell, Dennis Charles, Mabo Suzuki.

On the corner of  East 6th Street and Avenue B, there was Avenue B Garden.  It was a community initiative that transformed a ruined building into a beautiful community garden. It was the usual ritual stage of the ShockTroop Theatre, a community ritual druid theatrical group, directed by David Boyle, who was also leading the Outstanding Renewal Enterprises (O.R.E.) strongly active in the Lower East Side community against its gentrification.