1992 Human Right Day, New York

On December 10 of 1992, Human Rights Day, at the City Hall, the NYC Commissioner of Human Rights Dennis de Leon organized with Mico Licastro, president of the Institute for Italian American Experience, a round table as a follow up from the Columbus Reconciliation Forum. Together with David Ecker, George Chaikin, Jose Rodriguez,  Ralph Lerner, Earl S. Davis,  Okechukwu Odita, and Sandro Dernini, they discussed to reinforce the Columbus Reconciliation effort as well as the international dialogue among all participants. In the evening, at the Barney Building of New York University, Plexus organized the art event The Deconctruction of The Voyage of the Elisabeth. It was staged as a report to the Lower East Side community from the Columbus Reconciliation Forum and from the morning round table at the City Hall. It was an attempt to bridge again the community and institutions to work together for the continuation of the well- being and reconciliation project. Lorenzo Pace performed the arrival of the Plexus art journey, back in town, William Parker played with Patricia Nicholson Parker In Order to Survive. Jose Rodriguez, as publisher, presented the numero zero of the CUANDO Plexus Passport. It was conceived as community project of communication with the editor Edward Birchmore and the photographer Raymond Ross.  Then, Alfa Diallo performed the reading of the Loisada poem. Nilda Cortez George Chaikin, Okechukwu Odita and Josè Rodriguez reported the results from the Columbus Reconciliation Forum in Sardinia. Sandro Dernini updated the audience on the meeting held in the morning at the City Hall. During the event, Barnaby Ruhe performed his action painting, following rhythm presentations.

From Plexus by Barnaby Ruhe:

PLEXUS is the shaman journey along the lines of Van Gennep’s Rites of Passage‘s format. That is, the Plexus art opera is an evolving art action that engages in three distinct phases: The first phases the identification and dialogue with the Norm or status quo, embracing the system of art logic even as the embrace is deadly. The second phase is the “dematerialization” of our constellation of concepts surrounding art activity;  this phase is what Victor Turner calls the ‘liminal’ phase where roles reverse, definitions are tossed back into the air, confusion reigns around blazing ambiguities functioning like a Roschartz blot, and artists dive in with no clear functions delineated. At first the second phase seems like just so much nonsense, like acts of desperation. The third phase is the rematerialization around the PLEXUS metaphor. Like a pearl formed around an irritating grain of sand, PLEXUS sets up a metaphor that engages art activity without precise directives.  You have to be there:  Artists congregate because of a sensed ‘communitas’ and mill about when the directives are clearly unclear.  At some undetermined moment, the mob coheres into congruity. Art shapes itself around a symbol.  Plexus takes a shape that is of the moment, yet reflective of the undercurrents of the ‘zeitgeist’ of the age. This is possible because the second phase functions as an ink blot, allowing within the ambiguity the surfacing of associations from the (collective/community) unconscious. The shamanic journey invariably engages a ‘trance’ phase that integrates ‘reality’ with the experiences surfacing at the second phase. Groups engaging a common mind or mood have been documented.

Finding that common esprit is not the reaction to orders from a leader, but discovered from within. Hence the urgency of the metaphor as the activating ingredient in the Plexus art opera.  Its very ambiguity serves to entrance the participants during the second phase of the ritual journey. The metaphor is by necessity ambiguous that is capable of multiple meanings.   The dramatic metaphor collects the collective sentiment of the group whose minds are open ended.


After the Plexus community report ended, everybody went to the penthouse of the Belgium consul Herman Portocarero for a Plexus 23s dinner party to celebrate the return in New York of the Plexus voyage. Few days after, the Mayor David N. Dinkins proclaimed in the City of New York the day of December 16 as the International Reconciliation Day. He acknowledged the Institute for Italian American Experience in his effort to have made that in October a group of concerned Africans, Native Americans, Italians and Americans met on the Mediterranean island of San Pietro, off the coast of Sardinia, Italy, with the goal of working together to promote human rights and to solidify goodwill and cooperation among people most directly affected by the voyage of Christopher Columbus. Mayor Dinkins urged all New Yorkers and all people of the world to remember their similarities, to enjoy and learn from their differences and to work together to achieve a better future for themselves and for their children.