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

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