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Plexus International 1989
The 1989 Story of Closing Plexus into a Black Box: From New York to Rome, via Sardinia

In early 1989, back in New York from Dakar, Sandro Dernini looking about Cristopher Columbus and his slaves trade, discovered at the NYU Bobst Library a Columbus’s controversial route correction story made  in front to the Sardinian Island of San Pietro, where was Plexus Elisabeth boat waiting to go to Goree-Dakar.

From The Life of Christopher Columbus by Ferdinand Columbus:

 “It happened”, Columbus wrote, “that King Renè now with God, sent me to Tunis to seize the galleas Fernandina. Now when I was off the island of San Pietro, near Sardinia, I was informed that the galleas was accompanied by two other ships and a carrack. My crew were disturbed by the news and refused to carry on unless I returned to Marseilles and picked up another ship and some more men. Seeing that I could not force their hand without some ruse or artifice, I agreed to what they asked me. But then, having changed the pull off  the magnetic needle, I made sail at nightfall and next morning at dawn we were off Cape Carthage – whereas all aboard had been quite certain we were making for Marseilles.”

Columbus already was in the Plexus voyage since when few months before, just in the Ben Snow Room of the NYU Bobst Library, the computer program Columbus Business Plan was presented on the occasion of the act 2 of The Serpent travelling  event. Therefore, Sandro Dernini proposed to James Finkelstein, assistant dean of the NYU SEHNAP School, to develop a cultural navigation project to be held in 1992 on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Columbus landing in the Americas.  On March 10 of 1989, at the NYU Anderson Room, he managed a meeting chaired by Dean James Finkelstein and hosted by John V. Gilbert, chairman of the NYU Music Dept. It was attended by Bruce Breland and Jenny Bell of the Carnegie Mellon Dax Group, George Chaikin of Cooper Union, Angiola Churchill and David Ecker of the NYU Art & Art Education Dept., Malvern Lumsden of NYU SEHNAP Publishing Studio, Earl S. Davis of  NYU Institute for Afro-American Affairs, Nilda Cortez and Josè Rodriguez of C.U.A.N.D.O. Cultural Community Centre, Mor Thiam and Camall Cisse of the Institute for Study of African Culture, Mico Licastro of the Institute for the Italian American Experience, Arturo Lindsay of Plexus International Art Urban Forum Inc. and Okechukwu Odita of the Art History Dept. of Ohio State University. At the end, it was established The 1992 Christopher Columbus Consortium, with the purpose to develop a variety of projects of voyages of cultural navigation, within the global vision of the living planet. Sandro Dernini was designated as coordinator. In the evening, at CUANDO, it was organized a report from the NYU meeting to the Lower East Side community, staged as a memorial for Mickey Pinero who recently deceased, with the participation of Okechukwu Odita, Arturo Lindsay, Miguel Algarin, Sandro Dernini, Joanee Freedom, Nilda Cortez, Jose Rodriguez, Leonard Horowitz.   On April 7, after a second meeting of the Columbus Consortium held again in the NYU Anderson Room, it was organized an other community report. It was staged at the Rivington School as a Plexus happening, named The Art World TV Deconstruction/Reconstruction, Episode Two: The Rivington School, with the participation of Okechukwu Odita, Sandro Dernini, Arturo Lindsay, Maggie Reilly,  Ray Kelly, Leonard Horowitz. A month later after the C. Columbus Consortium's establishment, any relationships between NYU and the 1992 Christopher Columbus Consortium were stopped by the NYU central administration of the NYU Columbus Quincentennial Committee as well as any Consortium meetings inside NYU facilities. Around the same time, Arturo Lindsay expressed strong concerns about the involvement of Plexus in the Columbus consortium as a celebration project. Therefore, with no Plexus name, on May 25, at the Institute of Computer Art of the School of Visual Arts, it was presented by George Chaikin, Stephen DiLauro and Sandro Dernini, the event: 1992: The Departure of An Art Human Shuttle For Freedom Journeying to the Realm of a New Planet Called  Time-Art. It featured The Shock Troop Theatre of David Boyle, Lenny Horowitz, Stephen DiLauro, Wess Power. George Chaikin with a scanner camera connected to a computer system performed the experiment to transfer to Franco Meloni at the University of Cagliari  the digital dematerialization of a Senegal wood canoe that was brought there by Mouhamadou MBaye director in Dakar of the Senegal Agency for Cultural and Tourist Promotion.  The digital transfer had no success, therefore, the canoe data were packaged into two computer disks for Franco Meloni to perform in Cagliari the re-materialization of the Senegal canoe. Two days after, at William Parker’s house, in presence as witness of David Boyle, Max Hardeman, Wess Powers, Papam Moussa Tall, a bank check of 500 dollars, donated to Plexus by the benefactor Ariane Braillard, was given to Mouhamadou MBaye to be carried in Dakar for Assane MBaye and Tairo Diop in support to the Plexus Goree project. Mouhamadou MBaye disappeared with the money, making many problems for Plexus to continue its activities in Dakar.  On May 30, at the Salon’s Ray, in 539 East 13th Street, it was held a community debate about Plexus international and its strategy. It was staged as a critical dialogue performance between Sandro Dernini and Arturo Lindsay, with contributions by Miguel Algarin, Lenny Horowitz, David Boyle, Wess Powers and Joanee Freedom. As conclusion, it was agreed to stop any activities under the name of Plexus International, until a broader clarification was made among all Plexus historical players. Stephen Di Lauro announced that he was going to present in Rome, on July 4, his art opera, named 1992 C. Columbus Voyage in the Planet of Art, directed by Willem Brugman, featuring Sara Jackson as the queen Isabella. Few days after, in Princeton, in front to the Albert Einstein’s house, George Chaikin and Sandro Dernini by holding photos made at the Institute of Computer performed a symbolic dematerialization of the Plexus documentation leaving for Sardinia. In June, at the Department of Physics of the University of Cagliari, the delivery of the computer disks was made to Franco Meloni and Francesco Aymerich as a theatrical happening, performed by Willem Brugman, Sara Jackson, Stephen DiLauro, Matthew Schwartz, Tanya Gerstle, Antonio Caboni, David.Boyle and Sandro Dernini. Then all together moved to Carloforte and, on board the Elisabeth boat, it was discussed the stop of Plexus International activities as it was decided in New York, as well as how to manage the economic difficulties raised for Plexus in Dakar. The day after, Tommaso Meloni, in Monte Liuru, near to Cagliari, staged a symbolic reconciliation performance between Columbus and native indios by signing a Plexus Boxing Ring for Freedom, made withposters from the 1988 Metateatro show held in Rome for the presentation of the Plexus International Art Slavery Manifesto Open Call. Then, few days after, in Rome, with Paolo Maltese, Fabrizio Bertuccioli, Giancarlo Schiaffini, Micaela Serino, Willem Brugman, Stephen DiLauro, Tanya Gerstle, it was conceptualized to perform the symbolic freezing of Plexus into a black box, until when a larger consensus for Plexus international was again gained and a new  art strategy was defined. On July 1, at the Metateatro of Rome, the Plexus Black Box was performed as the closing act of  the art opera 1992 Christopher Columbus -Voyage in the Art Planet, an art opera. It was presented not as a Plexus art opera but as a production by Stephen DiLauro, made by Plexus artists in the first person. On July 4, anniversary of the 1987 Plexus Stoned Serpent, Franco Meloni at the University of Cagliari issued the Open Call Plexus Black Box to bring ideas about what Plexus was and what it could be in the future.

From Paradox by Franco Meloni:

Any serious consideration of PLEXUS* (Physical Theory, in the original...) must take into account the distinction between the objective reality, which is independent of any theory, and the physical concepts with which the theory operates. A.Einstein, B. Podolsky and N. Rosen, Physical Rev. 47, 777 (1935). Why to use a fundamental article at the basis of the unsolved questionable dispute between the probabilistic exponents of the Copenaghen School, and the deterministic scientists, Einstein et al., to introduce a discussion concerning PLEXUS? To gain credibility, for example.  And because of the intimate fashion that I see looking to problems involving few definite positions and many possible developments able to augment our desire to implement connections between different domains of knowledge. The most exciting and sometime appealing question I have ever heard in these two years of activity in PLEXUS concerns my position as scientific entity in the not-ever-clear artistic movement.  Generally, - What is PLEXUS? Moreover, what is your position in it? - is a very intriguing statement, mainly because of the complexity of the answer. I have tried many times to avoid a clear definition, but a night, forced by Sandro, a kind of equation came out in the form: PLEXUS = kB ln Ω.  There is a strong influence in this late-night output due to my old love for Boltzmann and for the implication that the true formula, where PLEXUS = S, the entropy of the system, had for the developments of Physics in many directions. It is very easy to connect the statement to many concepts in some way related to PLEXUS: i) There is the sense of the whole system as composed by separate but important parts:  the artist in the first person; ii) there is the answer concerning the system as open or not, and the consequent entropy increment, with or without critical filters; iii) There is the close connection with the freedom of and in communication, Shannon relations of 1948 defining information as the difference of entropy before and after a message, and PLEXUS concerns also information; iv) There is in general the relationship between order and disorder; v) there is something of artistic in the definition of non-deterministic entities, in a sense exciting as von Neuman said on the term entropy related to information: "...no one knows what entropy really is, so in a debate you will always have the advantage."; vi) PLEXUS needs creative concepts, and with logical Ralston matrices also a little of statistical mechanics may aid to increase the number of connective sensations among us.”…

David Boylecomingback in New York reported the closing of Plexus into a Black Box as an intentional act made to resist and to regain energy.

From La Scatola Nera ( Black Box) by David Boyle:

At the finish of July, we commence a comforting phase of auto-analysis made possible by the relative confinement of the Plexus movement within the scatola nera (black box). 

The confinement is accomplished by utilizing the material residue of the movement that we call documentation in a ritual manner. Until this decisive moment/action the Plexus movement was following the traditional path into history, but by this action which constitutes an intervention in the process, we choose our point from which to address history.  The traditional path included a gradual abandonment of active interest in the movement. By utilizing the metaphor of planetary mass, we could understand the evacuation of the heaviest elements from the core of the body (mass) results in an instability that necessitates a collapse of the body to re-establish the core mass. 

Rather than to wrack the body of this movement with such a change of structure, we have intervened to freeze the movement in time through the use of ritual documentation.  The core group is stabilized by this action. Founding members of the movement cited dissatisfaction with the shift within the movement away from new ideas.  The action taken by the remaining elements of the movement to place the movement in a sort of stasis to facilitate analysis represents a sort of retrospective consensus.



George Chaikin and Sandro Dernini