Feb 28, 2008


The trumpet scatters the awful sound carved on the backs of waves, the slaves of nature. Blood flowed through a bug gestating amongst red lights. I'll cough it out, to the south, back into the water of my balloon neck. How many handless can reach for so little? The answer is beneath the sand--dig down, dig deep, dig down, deep.

Water leaked through the earth, skewed in shape, parcelled to hungry ghosts. Their thin lipped glasses of rubber ice skates are raining into the navel with a memory of ripened shoulders ready for the wild plants' invasion.

M.K. Shibek, Tim Iserman, Kristy Rose

Feb 21, 2008

Pantsless Commuters Confirm Surrealist Dream Theory?

It's not mentioned in the article (which you can see by clicking on the title above) but I'm wondering if this was a response to a Tri-Met driver's complaint about a passengers' clothing. More troubling is the vague reference to 'surrealist dream theory' which implies that surrealism is a pointless and possibly frivolous exercise in anything odd or unusual. While I support the pantsless commute and would have enjoyed taking part, I found myself wanting more from the article, which doesn't provide any meaningful context about surrealism and the Surrealist Movement which continues today. I suppose the shock and novelty of seeing underwear on the Max could remind someone of surrealist images, and it could have been liberating for those taking part, and I understand this connection. But at the same time, the convulsive interplay between the conscious and the unconscious--which is more important than a specific theory of dream-is not fully drawn out in the article. Note: I am not implying that surrealism revolves around 'shock and novelty,' but simply trying to contextualize the headline chosen by the Willamette Week's writer.


Feb 15, 2008


In early August I went to the Tri-Met Transit Mall located along Fifth and Sixth Avenues with a tape recorder and sign reading “Portland Surrealist Group Interviews.” Most people chose to pass by or face the street, awaiting buses in silence. About a fourth of them looked at the sign or made eye contact. At four in the afternoon the streets were busy but not full. Only the curious were asked the proposed question. Below is a summary of the results:

—Can’t think of anything. (3)
—Jobs and shelter for the homeless. (2)
—Free parking and more free transportation. (2)
—More trees. We’ve lost fifty percent of them since 1975. I ate off fruit trees as a child.
—Tear up the streets and plant grass and flowers.
—Expand Waterfront Park from the Fremont Bridge to the Stadium Freeway Bridge, and make the Portland Streetcar pass through it.
Get rid of Front Avenue altogether.
—Clean the Willamette River so people can swim in it.
—Move the Portlandia statue on the Portland Building to Waterfront Park so it can welcome incoming ships.
—Make it legal to skateboard.
—Move the Police Station to the middle of the ocean.
—Get rid of Niketown.
—Too many buses.

A following trip to the South Park Blocks induced these comments on the statue of Teddy Roosevelt:
—Paint it patriotic colors.
—Move it to where it’s more visible.
—Shit on the horse’s head. Piss on that guy.

Later at the Multnomah County Library a discussion ensued with two people involving electric buses, the use of recycled and natural building materials, building with character and permanence, and more room for bicycles. Also discussed was the controlled feeling of Pioneer Courthouse Square (where Portland’s entrepreneur-funded Clean and Safe Services and the Portland Police Bureau keep people from any excess of passion), the difficulty of putting up murals compared with the ease of putting up billboard advertisements, and the building facades, which conceal a structure’s true function and makes it easier to sell. The importance of building on existing structures rather than making “ugly” new gentrified buildings was also emphasized during comments on numerous construction sites seen recently. One participant liked the idea of leaving parking garages standing to be used as a scaffolding/mesh structure.

No doubt some of the proposals would improve the quality of life and should be implemented for their practical benefit. A few display humor and imagination with regard to being able to “do anything” to the city-space. Other answers are generally contained or constrained. Everyone was made aware of the uncensored aspect of this game survey, meant to illuminate desire, and activate tension between desire and experience, subject to chance variations.

MK Shibek December 2002 (Originally printed in Flying Stone #1 and also at http://pdxsurr.blogspot.com)

Feb 3, 2008


Improvisational Workshop

hosted by Andrew Wilshusen

First Monday of every month

6212 N. Commercial Ave. Portland, Oregon

8:00-10:00 p.m.

Topic on February 4th: What are common clichés and habits in improvised music?

In our pursuit of creativity, it is important to expose common musical crutches and predictable musical choices. Although they needn't be eschewed entirely (as that itself is a cliché), they should be shunned insofar as they distract from creativity and creative potential.

(Please arrive early to allow time to set up and get acquainted, as in consideration of roommates and neighbors we must limit volume levels after 9 and finish promptly at 10.)

All instruments (unfortunately none provided, but I'd love to find an upright piano..) and levels of ability are encouraged to participate. My only requirement for all participants is to take the process of musical creation seriously. As with a game, music should be fun, but it is restrictive and frustrating if everybody is not in full participation. Please, no spoilsports.

Thanks again to all who have shown interest in having me host an improvisational workshop. This will be the first such gathering of this particular workshop, but will be my third attempt at leading a workshop aimed at exploring the possibilities of purely improvised music.

My Mission:

My purpose for this workshop is to provide an opportunity for musicians to work together to improve and expand their musical creativity. By "creative," I refer to the concept of attempting to reach beyond personal experience and understanding in order to explore with open mindedness that which is unfamiliar and unknown. Interacting in an unfamiliar context with unfamiliar but like-minded musicians promotes creativity by forcing each player out of their routine.

RSVP would be appreciated, so I can get an idea of how many people to expect. For further questions, contact me at
or liberatednsf@yahoo.com.

Feb 2, 2008


Sunday, June 25, 2006

In collaboration with the London Surrealist Group who
issued the call, and with other surrealists and allies
around the world.

On the way to my first point, I met a woman with
her face painted white, who was intrigued by the idea
of the derive, and by surrealism, though she said she
knew little about them. She said she'd try her own
version of the derive once I told her the coordinates
and then left an email address during the short bus
ride. I rode to a large mall. My intention was to
wander using the second right, second left, first
right formula from the point of repulsion to the
chance locale to the points of desire, but the
desiring space sometimes intruded into, or was found
alongside, the repulsive and the chanced upon.

From the food court to the video and gaming arcade I
went, talking into a tape deck. 'War: The Final
Assault' was a game which featured an instruction
label reading 'kill boss to complete level.' 'Wing
War' was a flight and driving simulation. 'Time
Crisis' was the last game I saw as I headed for a long
hallway across the food court. I couldn't help reflect
on the tone of video 'adventures' in light of U.S.
foreign policy and the narrow outlook which saturates
this land-mass. People stared at me as I talked into
the tape deck mic.

Following my guideline directions I arrived at a
hallway leading away from the food court. Past a sign
reading 'authorized personnel only' I went through
unlocked double doors, through a short hallway, and
out onto a rooftop area, deserted but for one car. I
could only go one direction down this path which lead
to the public parking lot. Soon I descended a white
steel staircase onto a boring street and saw my
initial point of entry into the mall in the distance,
farther away than I'd imagined.

Heading east, a sudden point of desire emerged in a
parking alley behind a chinese fast-food place. This
was a deserted area without a single car or person,
quiet, and partially in the shade. A row of pine
bushes towered above me to the left from where they
lined the edge of a higher lot. A bird flew by as if
to heighten the solitary feeling of being hidden from
view for a moment, away from the prying, judging eye
of 'the public' near the rush hour. Before I left this
spot I saw one pane in a large double-paned window had
been broken. It seemed no one would notice due to
piles of boxes just inside.

The alley continued across a busy street and past a
small building labelled 'The OOOption Group.' I'd seen
this sign before and it reminded me of the Romanian
Surrealists' 'objectively offerred objects,' which
helped to auto-mythologize the 'oooption group' into a
curious secret society in my imagination. This name is
also a mix of a mistake and a pathway, as in ooops and
options. A sign read 'these premises under video
surveillance' to top it all off.

Moving through an alley behind buildings, past
several 'permanently locked' doors and security
buzzers, I found myself taking the next available turn
into a kitchen and housewares shop. The air
conditioning, shoppers, jazz on the radio, and crying
baby inside were a sudden change, and with humor I
navigated the aisles and levels of this place until I
returned to my point of entry and then set off in
another direction. I wondered when I would be asked if
I could 'be helped' but by then I'd made an exit past
the patio umbrellas onto a boring, hot and busy

A series of giant, locked doors blocked the next
intended turn, and left an uneasy impression. Past the
Epicure restaurant I found an abandoned computer by a
dumpster. A single sheet of paper lay in the
landscaping--an invoice for tropical plants, 'and a
bow' as someone had written in ink next to the print.
It was addressed to a person I haven't thought of for
years, but once was attracted to. "Could it be the
same person." She had a common last name. I moved
through an intermediate space without much to report
other than an unintelligible comment and a smile from
a woman in a passing car. Once past a house where
musician friends once lived, I realized the area was
quite a bore and decided to adopt the chance method by
getting on the next bus.

An atopos or 'useless area' became visible during
the bus ride. Located underneath a busy street's
bridge, just west of a giant bowling alley, this dirt
trail by the highway fence and bridge supports had an
allure. It could be seen only briefly from a short
stretch of road or two in the vicinity, and only
viewed completely by access from the bowling alley
parking garage. Just today as i write this I saw
people moving through and standing in the area. A
short while later I got off the bus to see graffiti,
'paulrus is dead' which appears in multiple locations.
There was a hearing aid shop in a small building near
some apartment towers. On the hearing aid shop's
outside wall were the words 'building' in black
letters. It looked like another phrase before
'building'--some official title or designation-- had
fallen off or been removed from the brick. There were
marks visible where it had once been affixed.

Across the street a bright red, ornate church door
with gold decor and round black handles stood out. A
small courtyard just to the north had been designed
with maze-like patterns of grass and concrete. It was
too tidy and controlled, but was still a somewhat
welcoming area. A nearby dumpster had been decorated
with an ambiguous drawing and the words 'defend the
earth.' I recorded fingertip drumming on a large
aluminum soap container sitting there. To cool off I
headed for a usually interesting or charming thrift
store nearby. In the thrift store I conducted the
derive past clothes and various objects, and found a
unique candle of the cat-goddess Bast or Bastet, some
recording adapters, and a book about a town I grew up
near in a different part of the country. Inside this
book was an aerial picture of a mall (another mall!) I
used to visit as a child, but the photo was taken
before I was born. In addition to this, the
architect's name was the same common name of the woman
in the tropical plant invoice.

I'd intended to explore semi-deserted industrial
spots by the Willamette river, or a series of
overgrown alleyways in the northeast residential
areas, but I was tired and hot and decided to visit
them another time, perhaps with a camera. On my way
back to the busline which would return me to my bike I
saw a pine tree with a curiously bent limb much like a
single arm waiting to be sat on. If someone were to
sit there, it would appear that the tree was telling
stories while holding them up.

I enjoyed the feeling of my motions charting a kind
of geometry on parts of the city, though I was often
tempted to resist the basic instructions. It was a
humorous discipline to maintain the 'flight path.'
Making a sustained pattern across the social
landscape, across the habitual city space, for several
hours, left me with a mild urge to continue for the
rest of the night. The residue of derive lingered upon
me, creating new perception of the commonplace

M.K. Shibek

Feb 1, 2008


This morning I read Mattias Forshage's brief essay "Worthless Places (Atoposes*)", and decided that it would be worthwhile to do a derive in search of such places in Portland, Oregon. I knew it would be a challenge, because Portland is culturally a very bourgeois city… But this would force me to keep my eyes open.

Shortly into the walk, I came upon a vacant lot that I hoped would qualify. In the past it had been beautifully overgrown weeds and piles of trash. That was all still there, but it had been fenced in with a "No Trespassing" sign, and a truck advertising "Toppy's Furniture". So apparently someone had given the space "worth" by capitalist standards – but the cats still wandered about the place like hobo kings.

I was walking parallel to an interstate expressway, a couple of blocks to the east. I noticed that there was a wall blocking the sight and some of the sound of the expressway from the residential neighborhood I was walking through. The narrow area next to the wall looked as if it might be a "worthless" place, overgrown as it was with weeds, vines and so on. So I approached this area. Upon close examination, I discovered that there had been some attempt to cultivate this space – rocks were laid to mark off little circles and ovals in which domesticated flowers, herbs, shrubs and trees were planted. But it had all pretty clearly been left untended for quite some time, and so everything had a wild, unkempt look – the morning glories as much as the chicory, the evergreen trees as much as the Queen Anne's lace and dandelions, the roses as much as the clover and thistle. Here the drift into "worthlessness" was beautifully evident.

Portland is also full of back alleys. Since these do provide passageway for pedestrians and vehicles of all sorts, they don't automatically qualify as "worthless". But in my wandering I came upon one that was overgrown with blackberries from the side and with several varieties of plants growing out of and widening cracks in the pavement. It was obvious that this alley was hardly ever used, and was drifting toward a glorious "worthlessness". I am certain that similar alleys could be found in other parts of Portland.

But as I expected, on this too brief derive I did not discover a lot of "worthless" space. Portland is a bit too neat and refined. Still, I am certain with further exploration I could find more, and it is something I will continue to explore.

Apio Ludicrous

*This piece originally appears in the CD-ROM album of the 2007 London International Festival of Surrealism hosted by SLAG.

P.S.G. on C.E.I.

The Portland Surrealist Group in Response to the Cultural Economy Initiative

The Cultural Economy Initiative was developed by Portland Mayor Vera Katz to give assistance to local artists in hopes of luring to Portland what economist Richard Florida has termed the “Creative Class,” a trendy branch of the middle class who will allegedly bring with them economic growth. The following letter to The Organ Review of Arts is our response to that initiative. A somewhat altered version of this letter was published in their September/October issue (#7).

To the Editor:

The recent discussion in the May/June issue of The Organ (#5) addressing Mayor Vera Katz’s new Cultural Economy Initiative and Portland’s creative potential presented a disappointingly limited understanding of creativity. With its overall importance as an instinctual force, creativity exists beyond the notion of talent and those specialists who claim to possess that talent. Creativity is the external manifestation of the unfettered imagination that we all retain.

Essentially, Katz’s new economic scheme is just another assault on the imagination, and an attempt to exploit it for lucrative gains. Financial rather than cultural, Katz’s sole focus is to attract privileged white hipsters and well-groomed bohemians, today’s most enduring consumers, and to transform whatever artistic and revolutionary potential this city has into a fruitless commercial domain.

Rather than focusing on establishing and sustaining an environment in which these lifestyle leeches would want to live, it would make more sense, culturally, to focus on letting the people who are already here create an environment in which they would want to live. If we really want to talk about developing culture we must first talk about destroying restraints. In response to Katz’s plan we propose the following Cultural Recovery Initiative:

1. The abolition of repressive compulsory schooling, which would be replaced by the development of a community emphasis on supporting individuality and creative expression among youth.

2. The abolition of codes that restrict creative expression, such as the ban on murals and graffiti, or the more imposing building codes that render it impossible for people to craft a home or living environment outside of the city’s lifeless standards.

3. The abolition of all codes aimed against the homeless, which would be replaced by the spread of truly inventive groups such as Dignity Village and the various squatter communities.

4. The immediate cancellation of all gentrification plans, especially those directed at the Old Town district.

5. The reclaiming of little used roads and commons throughout the city to be reused as creative, agricultural, recreational, or natural spaces, thus eliminating the supremacy of cars and generating more intimate neighborhoods.

6. The complete socialization of the city’s wealth as a prelude to the negation of work and money, being that the human imagination, bound by capitalism, will never be able to burst into full flower until capitalism and the state lie in smoldering ruins.

The Portland Surrealist Group August 2003


This is an online resource for documenting things of interest to me happening in or related to Portland, Oregon, and surrounding regions. It will contain creative material, social commentary, and informative features, as inspired by urban anthropology and surrealism. If you have suggestions for topics or an article to share, get in touch.