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Interview: Mark Gergis aka Porest
Written by Chris Rolls   
Tuesday, 18 November 2008 07:44
Audio revisionist Mark Gergis aka Porest discusses Sublime Frequencies, Tourrorists! and other sonic morsels from a comfortable cruising altitude.

Stationed in a West Oakland bunker one-man audio revisionist Mark Gergis aka Porest (their Myspace) slices and dices sonic morsels into anthropological bitch slaps, and terror ready disco. His albums are a flag on the field for reptilian neo-cons, R.D. Lang disciples, religious fanatics, Straussians, Friedmanites, and anyone else foolish enough to believe that a free market global reality works. For those who ride their white horse of American luxury living into an apocalyptic sunset as remote viewers stab a depleted uranium sword into Islam’s gut, Gergis says, in the immortal words of known schizophrenic game theorist John Nash "Fuck you buddy!" But do not think that Gergis just tosses audio bombs from a comfortable distance, oh no, our man has traveled beyond the Muslim veil into Syria, and on several occasions brought back sounds that have been assembled, and released on Sublime Frequencies – the only label that bends over Real World ethno-rapists, and exposes them as the colonialist they are.

Fecal Face caught up with Gergis as he boarded a flight for Syria. This interview was completed in-flight, and sent from the heart of Fertile Crescent.

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You have contributed many albums to Sublime Frequencies; please explain your relationship with the label.

In 2002 Alan Bishop and I began discussing ideas about international music we and others we knew had been collecting over the years. Thus far, we'd all mainly kept it to ourselves or shared it with the pals who were interested. Eventually he brought up the notion of starting a label with his partners that would release these documents representing the hybrid folk/pop from the Middle East and Southeast Asia we had both been focusing on. It didn't seem like anyone else was releasing anything similar and so in late 2003, Sublime Frequencies was born. The field recordings, film documentation and regional radio collage recordings all fall in line with what has become the shape-shifting aesthetic of the label and I'm glad to be a heavy contributor. We all continue to travel to the areas in the world that interest us when we can and are constantly meeting more incredible musicians and music lovers in these places. Each trip fuels the inspiration and drive to dig deeper in. We're in so deep now, we're coming out the other side. We are all up inside that which is not World Music as it has been known.

You traveled to Syria specifically to acquire music from Omar Souleyman, an album that has received universal praise even from the overtly ironic Vice magazine. How did you track down Omar and convince him to release his music through Sublime Frequencies?

My first trip outside the Americas or Europe was a solo trip to Syria in late 1997. On that trip, I kept hearing this incredibly fast and gritty dabke music blaring from the street stalls in every city. Every time I'd inquire, I was shown an Omar Souleyman tape. I bought as many as I could on that first trip and loaded up again in 2000 on my second trip, after having a few years to process the genius of it all. Years later, Alan Bishop and I discussed trying to track Omar down for a possible SF release and I gave it a shot in 2006 when I returned to Syria with Oakland musician Liz Allbee with the hope of finding the man. And we did! After a couple weeks of asking around I finally found a guy at a Kurdish cassette shop in Aleppo who had a phone number of someone who would have a phone number. Omar was told that two Americans would like to meet with him. He agreed to meet us in Hassake and told us to wait there for him. Traveling as tourists to Hassake in 2006 was a real experience. It's definitely off the beaten tourist path and very close to the Iraqi border, where a full-scale war was/is raging. As a result, we were trailed by Syrian secret police every step of the way in a rather obvious fashion. They basically shadowed us and watched everything we did without direct communication. At that point, we decided it would be best to declare our intentions to a municipal office. While at that office, we showed cassette tapes of Omar and said we were waiting to meet him. They found this amusing and confusing, but found us a translator who told us he could help negotiate with Omar. He also informed us we were being watched "for our protection". Fair enough, but it was also for Syria's protection. Who the hell were we and what were we doing there? It looked strange, I'm certain. It's a sensitive region. A few days later, Omar showed up with a driver and met us in our hotel room. There he was, as regal and brooding a presence as we knew from the photos on every cassette cover. I was honored. I stated my case through the translator and when we had gone through the formalities, Omar decided we should take it to the next level and discuss business at a local restaurant. As we exited the hotel and stepped into his private vehicle, all the locals who had really been wondering why Liz and I were in town, stopped, gawked and whispered "Omar Souleyman...Omar Souleyman...” at the sight of him. Omar expressed that he couldn't walk as a normal person in that region anymore. At the restaurant, I explained the ethos of Sublime Frequencies to Omar and explained how great it would be to get a release out in the West so people could hear the modern folk-pop sounds of Syria.

He really seemed to understand and agreed to sign a contract with us. It was his first ever contract signing. It was my first time presenting a contract, too. He appreciated that. He said he had a general distrust of most producers and people who had approached him for contracts in the past. The man has a lot of integrity. I gave him a demo disc I'd assembled of his music that featured truncated versions of hour-long songs and asked him to authorize it. He did. Days later, he was putting us up at his Damascus apartment and we were able to see him perform and film him. I can say that he is a friend and a very kind man and I'm looking forward to seeing him again this week as I write this.

The Sublime Frequencies CD did indeed make him a cult legend in the West and the results have been great so far. There are people who now think of Syria a bit differently than they may have before. Even hipsters. Even ironic Vice folk. And that's fine!!! Let Omar be the gateway to your next level.

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Your album "I Remember Syria" was an aural document of your travels. Currently you are traveling in Syria. Are you collecting music for another album?

Yes! We're going to discuss future plans with Omar Souleyman, collect more music, see more music, conduct more research, film more footage, record more radio and generally have a great time. Each trip yields multiple projects!

What do you feel are the biggest misconceptions Americans harbor about Syria, and the Middle East in general?

That it's dangerous and that it's uncivilized. That Israel is a democracy and a power that should be supported without question. A lot of Americans (and Europeans) are completely ignorant about the region. This contributes to the fact that most people here don't really know how to separate people from government when it comes down to it. That's something that (surprisingly) most Arabs I meet on the street have going for them. They generally use their intellect and intuition and assume it's not the American people they should have a problem with, but the government. But really, it's becoming increasingly hard to prove that there's any difference between America's government and its people, so I go out into the field and try to help Middle Easterners understand that they also need to worry more about a lot of American people, because more and more Americans are as guilty as their government of ignorance and barbarism. I'm a great ambassador. People get scared for me when I travel to Syria, and one thing I always try to emphasize about Syria is that it is a relatively safe, extremely hospitable and civil place. The only thing I'm careful about over there is crossing the street. I have a good way of communicating with people wherever I am and I use my intuition and try to leave my ego at the border. As long as I don't get caught in the crossfire somehow along the way, I'll be fine. When people try pointing out Syria's faults, I challenge them to come up with one criticism that can't be paralleled in the U.S. It isn't possible, actually. Over here, it's easy to view the Middle East as a place where religious zealots and fundamentalists run wild. Again, it's similar to the volume of "fanatics" you'd find in the U.S.

The last Porest album, Tourorists! could be perceived as anti-Christian; do the perspectives aired on that record directly reflect your personal feelings towards Christianity?

Yeah, I think there were a few good stabs on that album. Blasphemous morsels. But I don't really have the time or passion to be anti-Christian or anti-religious. I spent some of my youth doing that as I broke out of a weird religious upbringing. But it takes a lot of effort to sustain that and it's not really going to change anything in the end. World travel has helped me realize that I don't need to push my opinions on people or tell them I think that their god or their belief system might be deluded, or whatever. I wouldn't want them to do that to me, so why should I do that to them? I start having big problems when people proselytize and think I should adhere to their belief system. A lot of people who operate under Christianity feel that's their exact duty. They suck. But I've seen what power religion holds for people worldwide. In some cultures, it's just the way it is. It's not really a question. Everyone loves their god and life continues under that premise, regardless of sectarian beliefs. When I look at some of the people in America who embrace radical forms of religion, I see how ravaged by life they are and how thirsty they are for concrete answers about life and mortality. Those life questions tend to really eat into human brains at rates most people aren't equipped to deal with. I know a lot of deeply religious people and it seems to be what keeps them going and it's what makes them feel content and accounted for. But everyone does that with something to some degree. We all have passions and ways of looking at the "big picture", with or without gods.

We believe in whatever we believe in and dose on something at the end of the day to help diversify the cycle. The fundamentalist faction of Christianity in this country is a very powerful and belligerent force that actually makes things happen and stops other things from happening.

I tend to think it should evaporate. But aren't fundamentalist atheists just as scary, self-righteous and as hopelessly dogmatic? We were talking about the music..... I had a fake Christian band in the 90s. It was called Lord Chord. It was an experimental lo-fi "indie" Christian group that was supposed to be marketed to real Christians. Our publicist, a Christian Zionist, made a run to Lubbock with the money and it never happened.

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Tourrorists! provides a chilling interpretation of post 9/11 America. Do you personally believe that the attack on the World Trade Center was either in part orchestrated by the US government, or potentially completely designed from within the neo-conservative faction of the current administration?

I think the Neocon Straussians wrote every note of that song and made sure they had the right musicians in the band. Really, if I admit what I believe in an online interview that can be accessed forever, then I'll just be a Google search away from instant dismissal...or something much worse. So let it go on record that I personally believe that this was a very un-American question of you to ask!

It all comes down to what people want to believe or disbelieve at this point. There are entities out there that are pleased we've come this far without serious questions being asked by large numbers of people. The fact that the official story, which was sold to us within hours of the event, has always been taken verbatim is surreal, isn't it? Wars have relied on this story.

The only certain thing we should believe about 9/11 at this point is that it happened and that its repercussions were extremely beneficial for certain parties. But who needs to think about that? If word got out that it was Sammy Davis Jr. himself who flew both airliners into the towers, it might make good dinner conversation for a night and that'd be the end. People don't really care who did it or what happened, as long as Seinfeld is on or they've got a date for the night.

America is populated with scores of adult children who want no accountability for their actions but are pretty certain they know what's going on. You can read most folks like a high school psychology book – and it's not even not even interesting or deviant psychology! It's more like typical textbook Freudian bullshit. Just as scary as anyone else in middle-America to me are all the so-called liberals who think they're part of some whimsical emerging global consciousness. All jive! We all just smell bad. We're like selfish balls of flesh and fluid that don't even want to begin to unravel ourselves, much less those who are controlling our lives. The Tourrorists! Album has fun with all of that and takes the whole world out for some birthday cake at a pizza parlor on a Friday night after a movie. I tried not to make it a pedantic or exclusively political record. That's usually a big turn off to me and only speaks to a few people, really. The album is all over the place, meaning it tries to mop every corner of the floor.

What is your take on the current financial crisis in America?

It's about time!! No really, as long as Best Buy still exists, I can cash my reward cards in and I'm good....otherwise, let the dream disintegrate!

One result I am truly frightened of is dealing with an American middle class under a martial law that they embrace due to circumstance that has absolutely no idea what to do with their lives in a post-material world. Most people whose lives rotate around weekends, sports and shopping malls will need serious reprogramming and a lot of sedatives when the shit hits the fan. They'd probably rather be tranquilized than ever ask themselves how it all happened. Don't get me wrong, tranquilizers are nice, but...

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Describe being of Iraqi descent in contemporary America - specifically in regard to your artistic work.

Well, growing up half Arab in America is different than not growing up half Arab. I'll never really know what it would be like to peacefully eat bologna sandwiches in grade school without being called Khomeini-face or Gaddafi or something. I vowed artistic revenge on my classmates at an early age, knowing full well that I'd make an album like "Tourrorists!" that they'd never hear.

Growing up around a lot of Middle Eastern hospitality, food, music and values has definitely made me see things differently than a non-Arab American. The U.S. has waged war on my Dad's country for over half my life, so I have always had a unique perspective on that as well. Especially when people in the trash suburb I grew up in would come into our market with "Fuck Iraq" T-shirts on and ask us "Where you from"?

It's hard to say what my work or my life would be like without that heritage. But seeing Arabs scapegoated, demonized, tortured and interrogated for being Arabs shouldn't just affect Arabs...

Last but certainly not least, what does the future hold for Porest? Are you working on a new album, and if so what is the thematic drive for the project?

There are a few Porest projects on the works. I try to keep it an open- ended project where anything can happen, which means it's allowed to be whatever it wants. The current projects are more musical than ever and they're all over the place. Nothing's tending to be exclusively theme-related aside from the children's record I'm always working on. There will be a Porest DVD released at some point and I'm hoping to get a Porest live-group assembled by next year as well. Concurrently, many cool Sublime Frequencies projects are also in the works, focusing more on South East Asia and the Middle East, so there's a lot going on!

Porest - "Hoyda" - From the CD "Tourrorists" - Abduction Records 2006

Interview by Fecal Face's music editor Chris Rolls - chris(at)fecalface.com

Photographs: Dave Franklin {moscomment}

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The Death of the Artist—and the Birth of the Creative Entrepreneur
Wednesday, 21 January 2015 10:34

When works of art become commodities and nothing else, when every endeavor becomes “creative” and everybody “a creative,” then art sinks back to craft and artists back to artisans—a word that, in its adjectival form, at least, is newly popular again. Artisanal pickles, artisanal poems: what’s the difference, after all? So “art” itself may disappear: art as Art, that old high thing. Which—unless, like me, you think we need a vessel for our inner life—is nothing much to mourn.

lead

Hard-working artisan, solitary genius, credentialed professional—the image of the artist has changed radically over the centuries. What if the latest model to emerge means the end of art as we have known it? --continue reading

 

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17_ms

Work by Meryl Pataky

 

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Ron-Turner

Ron Turner of Last Gasp

"[Satire] is important because it brings out the flaws we all have and throws them up on the screen of another person," said Turner. “How they react sort of shows how important that really is.” Later, he added, "Charlie took a hit for everybody." -read on

 

Solidarity
Thursday, 08 January 2015 09:36

charlie

 

SF Bay Area: What Might Have Been
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tiburonbridge

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What many people don't know is that these lands were almost lost to large-scale development. link

 

1/5/14 - Going Back
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As we work on our changes, we're leaving Squarespace and coming back to the old server. Updates are en route.

The content that was on the site between May '14 and today is history... Whatever, wasn't interesting anyway. All the good stuff from the last 10 years is here anyway.

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Jacob Magraw will be showing embroidery pieces on cloth along with painted, gouache works on paper --- Rachell Sumpter paints scenes of colored splendor dropped into scenes of desolate wilderness. ~show details

park_life

 

NYPD told to carry spray paint to cover graffiti
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nyc_graffitiNYC --- A new graffiti abatement program put forth by the police commissioner has beat cops carrying cans of spray paint to fill in and cover graffiti artists work in an effort to clean up the city --> Many cops are thinking it's a waste of resources, but we're waiting to see someone make a project of it. Maybe instructions for the cops on where to fill-in?

The NYPD is arming its cops with cans of spray paint and giving them art-class-style lessons to tackle the scourge of urban graffiti, The Post has learned.

Shootings are on the rise across the city, but the directive from Police Headquarters is to hunt down street art and cover it with black, red and white spray paint, sources said... READ ON

 

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Wednesday, 16 June 2010 17:39


Headlands Center Fundraiser -6/4/14
Tuesday, 20 May 2014 07:54

SAN FRANCISCO --- The Headlands Center for the Arts is preparing for their largest fundraiser of the year set to go down on June 4th at SOMArts here in the city. Art auction, food, drinks, live music, etc and all for helping to support a great institution up in the Marin Headlands. ~details

ABOUT HEADLANDS
Headlands Center for the Arts provides an unparalleled environment for the creative process and the development of new work and ideas. Through a range of programs for artists and the public, we offer opportunities for reflection, dialogue, and exchange that build understanding and appreciation for the role of art in society.

headlands

 

Congrats, Dudes(ette)
Monday, 19 May 2014 09:29

Just want to say congrats to Fecal Face's Rachel Ralph for graduating from SFAI with her masters in curatorial studies. Also want to congratulate Alex Ziv who also just got his MFA in painting. Also a high five to the talented Mario Ayala who also just graduated from SFAI as well! --- All super talented artists (thinkers), and we're excited to see what the future holds for them!

 

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Wednesday, 25 August 2010 12:50


 

 


 

 

 

//////// INSTAGRAM ----- FECAL_FACE

 

Alison Blickle @NYC's Kravets Wehby Gallery

Los Angeles based Alison Blickle who showed here in San Francisco at Eleanor Harwood last year (PHOTOS) recently showed new paintings in New York at Kravets Wehby Gallery. Lovely works.


Interview w/ Kevin Earl Taylor

We haven't been featuring many interviews as of late. Let's change that up as we check in with a few local San Francisco artists like Kevin Earl Taylor here whom we studio visited back in 2009 (PHOTOS & VIDEO). It's been awhile, Kevin...


Peter Gronquist @The Shooting Gallery

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Jay Bo at Hamburg's Circle Culture

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NYCHOS @Fifty24SF

Fifty24SF opened Street Anatomy, a new solo show by Austrian artist Nychos a week ago last Friday night. He's been steadily filling our city with murals over the last year, with one downtown on Geary St. last summer, and new ones both in the Haight and in Oakland within the last few weeks, but it was really great to see his work up close and in such detail.


Gator Skater +video

Nate Milton emailed over this great short Gator Skater which is a follow-up to his Dog Skateboard he emailed to us back in 2011... Any relation to this Gator Skater?


Ferris Plock Online Show Now Online as of April 25th

5 new wonderful large-scale paintings on wood panel are available. visit: www.ffdg.net


ClipODay II: Needles & Pens 11 Years!!

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BANDES DE PUB / STRIP BOX

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AJ Fosik in Tokyo at The Hellion Gallery

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GOLD BLOOD, MAGIC WEIRDOS

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Jeremy Fish at LA's Mark Moore Gallery

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John Felix Arnold III on the Road to NYC

Well, John Felix Arnold III is at it again. This time, he and Carolyn LeBourgios packed an entire show into the back of a Prius and drove across the country to install it at Superchief Gallery in NYC. I met with him last week as he told me about the trip over delicious burritos at Taqueria Cancun (which is right across the street from FFDG and serves what I think is the best burrito in the city) as the self proclaimed "Only overweight artist in the game" spilled all the details.


FRENCH in Melbourne

London based illustrator FRENCH recently held a show of new works at the Melbourne based Mild Manners


Henry Gunderson at Ever Gold, SF

Ever Gold opened a new solo show by NYC based Henry Gunderson a couple Saturday nights ago and it was literally packed. So packed I couldn't actually see most of the art - but a big crowd doesn't seem like a problem. I got a good laugh at what I would call the 'cock climbing wall' as it was one of the few pieces I could see over the crowd. I haven't gotten a chance to go back and check it all out again, but I'm definitely going to as the paintings that I could get a peek at were really high quality and intruiguing. You should do the same.


Mario Wagner @Hashimoto

Mario Wagner (Berkeley) opened his new solo show A Glow that Transfers Creativity last Saturday night at Hashimoto Contemporary in San Francisco.


Serge Gay Jr. @Spoke Art

The paintings in the show are each influenced by a musician, ranging from Freddy Mercury, to Madonna, to A Tribe Called Quest and they are so stylistically consistent with each musician's persona that they read as a cohesive body of work with incredible variation. If you told me they were each painted by a different person, I would not hesitate to believe you and it's really great to see a solo show with so much variety. The show is fun, poppy, very well done, and absolutely worth a look and maybe even a listen.


NYCHOS Mural on Ashbury and Haight

NYCHOS completed this great new mural on the corner of Haight and Ashbury in San Francisco on Tuesday. Looks Amazing.


Sun Milk in Vienna

With rising rent in SF and knowing mostly other young artists without capitol, I desired a way to live rent free, have a space to do my craft, and get to see more of the world. Inspired by the many historical artists who have longed similar longings I discovered the beauty of artist residencies. Lilo runs Adhoc Collective in Vienna which not only has a fully equipped artists creative studio, but an indoor halfpipe, and private artist quarters. It was like a modern day castle or skate cathedral. It exists in almost a utopic state, totally free to those that apply and come with a real passion for both art and skateboarding


"How To Lose Yourself Completely" by Bryan Schnelle

I just wanted to share with you a piece I recently finished which took me 4 years to complete. Titled "How To Lose Yourself Completely (The September Issue)", it consists of a copy of the September 2007 issue of Vogue magazine (the issue they made the documentary about) with all faces masked with a sharpie, and everything else entirely whited out. 840 pages of fun. -Bryan Schnelle


Tyler Bewley ~ Recent Works

Some great work from San Francisco based Tyler Bewley.


Kirk Maxson and Alexis Mackenzie at Eleanor Harwood Gallery

While walking our way across San Francisco on Saturday we swung through the opening receptions for Kirk Maxson and Alexis Mackenzie at Eleanor Harwood Gallery in the Mission.


Jeremy Fish Solo Show in Los Angeles

Jeremy Fish opens Hunting Trophies tonight, Saturday April 5th, at the Los Angeles based Mark Moore Gallery. The show features new work from Fish inside the "hunting lodge" where viewers climb inside the head of the hunter and explore the history of all the animals he's killed.


The Albatross and the Shipping Container

Beautiful piece entitled "The Albatross and the Shipping Container", Ink on Paper, Mounted to Panel, 47" Diameter, by San Francisco based Martin Machado now on display at FFDG. Stop in Saturday (1-6pm) to view the group show "Salt the Skies" now running through April 19th. 2277 Mission St. at 19th.


The Marsh Barge - Traveling the Mississippi River from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico

For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to quit my job, move out of my house, leave everything and travel again. So on August 21, 2013 I pushed a canoe packed full of gear into the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Lake Itasca, Minnesota, along with four of my best friends. Exactly 100 days later, I arrived at a marina near the Gulf of Mexico in a sailboat.


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