'Guerrilla Space: A Few Many Things About ABC No Rio'
by Sasha Forte
"If there is any interest in 'political revolution', in creating a working context, a basis for a new culture...No Rio is a basis for building a new alternative."
David Shea, Performance Director
"Viewing the similarities between life, politics and art, the underlying concepts are the same. A food co-op, a squat and Rio are basically the same thing. Only the methods are different, and the approach."
Lou Acierno, Program Director
Real Estate...what is real estate? Is it real? Is it possible for a group of people with lots of money, police chanting "spatial deconcentration", changing a few signs so that "slum" reads "real estate"? Is it white Europeans buying Manhattan for $24 dollars over and over and over? Or...is it the name of the guerrilla art show that spawned ABC No Rio?
On January 2, 1980 a group of Colab/Fashion Moda artists broke into a city-owned building at 123 Delancey Street to present the Real Estate Show, an art show protesting gentrification, warehousing and community segregation on the Lower East Side. The cops closed the show, the artists took their case to the city, and with the Reagan administration mentality closing in fast, a compromise was reached and ABC No Rio was born.
All this may be news to anti-folk scenesters who have only set foot in No Rio come Sunday; for the full story, check out the book ABC NO RIO DINERO (available for perusal in the No Rio basement library). Over the past ten years, the place has served as a stepping stone to the mainstream, cheap theater space, nightclub, art classroom, gallery and other trivia only to return to its roots and its original direction and purpose: to be an anarchist collective of people, artist or not, who deplore and condemn the goals and values of the larger oppressive culture, and who are willing to work together to achieve a common goal: freedom.
Under the co-directorship of Lou Acierno, David Shea, Matthew Courtney and a host of others, ABC No Rio struggles to create and maintain itself as a starting ground for an alternative culture. No Rio gets a minimal amount of grant money. The building is neglected by the city. No Rio has few policies and few restrictions. It functions as little as possible within the money structure, and barter is generally accepted. The space depends on the involvement of the groups that use it, and the ongoing commitment of people everywhere, not just the Lower East Side, to establish a new system or non-system.
Since the crack den was shut down in the summer of 1988 (the city had rented one of the upstairs apartments to drug dealers), lots of changes have been made. A new group of artists has surged up to administer and shape No Rio. In the past few months I've seen shows drawn from such diverse groups as the Church of the sub-Genius, Witches for Animal Rights, the Bullet Space squat, and DC Space.
Shea's first show at No Rio this fall was an environmental awareness piece featuring music, video, lecture and typewriter ribbon strung all over the room. Jennifer Blowdryer's Valentine's Day Smut Reading brought down members of the porn underground. Rehab Video and Tom Becker (Young, Gifted and Broke) both do screenings on a regular basis. Matthew Courtney's Wide Open Cabaret is still the most diverse show in town. As a meeting ground for like-minded freedom fighters, Rio is cheaper than a bar, less noisy than a nighclub, less hung up than an art gallery and more accessible than any place I know. At No Rio you can stand up 'n DO SOMETHING for yourself instead of paying other people to do it for you...
Upcoming programs at ABC No Rio include Hardcore matinees on Saturday afternoons and a poetry series run by Margueritte, the new poetry director. Ongoing are Rehab Video screenings on alternate Fridays at 8, Naked Eye Cinema, Swiss Army Theater (check local listings or pick up a schedule of events at No Rio) and, of course, the Wide Open Cabaret every Sunday at 7 p.m., sign-up at 6:45, blah, blah, blah. Shows are booked by proposal; proposals can be presented at the open meetings, second Tuesday of every month at 7:30 p.m. ABC No Rio Mag, a free magazine produced/non-edited by Matthew, Lou and me comes out every 3-5 weeks and submissions are always welcome. Drop 'em off or mail them to No Rio, or put 'em in Matthews hand. Submit, propose, don't suck up, sink under or suck in...just get involved.
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