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Plexus International 2007
Plexus Black Box Book, Rome

In 1997, Sandro Dernini completed his Ph.D. Plexus Black Box inquiry at New York University, that after in 2007 was published by the Sapienza University Press of Rome and presented at the Bookstore Montecitorio by Sandro Dernini with Luigi Migliaccio, Carlo Cannella, and Karim Diuff, in presence of prof. Carlo De Marco, his former mentor.


Foreword to the Plexus Black Box book, 2007

David W. Ecker, New York University, 2007


To open Sandro Dernini's Plexus Black Box is to begin a voyage of discovery for those unfamiliar with Plexus International, the multicultural art project. As the new reader turns the pages and follows the history of 25 years of events, she will initially be struck by the diversity of participants: performance artists and physicists, jazz musicians and composers, dancers and philosophers, politicians and poets join others in an ebb and flow of global interaction. Yet a kind of unity of purpose becomes palpable. It is to challenge the separation of the artist from the community, resist the reduction of art to the Artworld, and to move beyond the limitations placed on aesthetic inquiry as an academic discipline.  A collaboration of voices speaks to the need for a community-based artistic identity across ethnic and cultural lines. Appropriately enough, some of the first voices documented are those disaffected artists living in the Lower East Side ("Loisada") of New York City. As entrepreneur, instigator, ring-master or spokesman, Sandro Dernini continues to organize these events "from the bottom up," leading often to confusion and conflict. The alternative, of course, is "top down" management hoping for order in the proceedings of a cultural institution, often at the expense of individual or group creativity.  As Dr. Dernini, Ph.D., Sandro, amazingly places all the historical documents and chronology of Plexus activities in the Appendices, while justifying the concept of "artist-as-researcher" and fusing the strategies of phenomenological and post-modern approaches to cultural phenomena in the text. He then provides the reader with his own "close reading" of the Plexus Black Box, grounded in his own experiences as participant-observer. It could be argued that we are either outsiders or insiders with regard to the "same" historical events in our lives. Sandro Dernini somehow achieves both in this remarkable dissertation.


Preface to the Plexus Black Box Book

Sandro Dernini, Rome 2007


Through its quarter of century documentation, Plexus is providing a unique historical opportunity for artists outside the Artworld system to have access to an independent community-based artistic identification. 

In this book, following the model of “the artist as researcher” outlined by David W. Ecker, I present a revised edition of my PhD. dissertation in art education: A Multicultural Aesthetic Inquiry into “Plexus Black Box” an International Community-Based Art Project, completed in 1997 at the School of Education of New York University.   It was related to a series of Plexus art events made, with no financial banking, in the ‘80s and mid ‘90s.  Plexus, in which I participated since its commencement in 1982, has until recently realized numerous experimental events, that are still an unexamined part of contemporary art history, that involved on some occasion hundreds of participants from all over the world, against “the slavery of art” and the disengagement of the artists from the community. Linked to many emerging issues raised by contemporary artists from the so-called margins of the Artworld, the book is based on "insider" accounts of their experiences with Plexus.   By presenting “art” as a sustainable development resource for the community, Plexus has intentionally situated itself within a broader community-based heterogeneous social environment. By positioning art in the experience and local knowledge of “insiders,” it strives to overcome the outworn notion of "autonomous art" by means of a more complex interdependent vision of art. By challenging the theoretical view that the “artistic identification” is conferred only by the Artworld, it claims a legitimacy also for a “community-based artistic identification.” By linking the notion of ‘art' -- as a culture-bound aesthetic experience-- to the concept of “well-being,” my overall assumption was that a multicultural sustainable paradigm to enhance the quality of life in the community would emerge. In publishing this book, my assumption is that the Plexus Black Box’s creative process as a qualitative problem solving may be invaluable in the methodology of understanding how “to move in other categories” for the development of multicultural sustainable strategies.