I woke up in a strange place

By Marc Heiden, since 1997.
See also: a novel about a monkey.

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May 11, 2005

One of my colleagues reported that he'd done a Google search for the terms 'Heiden' and 'monkey' and come up with 137 hits from this web-page. In my defense, I can only suggest that a more accurate count might have included the names of individual kinds of monkeys (and apes), such as gibbons or chimps or gorillas. Really, though, the clear implication is that I've been shockingly derelict in my duties as a practicioner of serious fucking journalism and I need to focus.

(news) Congo the chimpanzee led a brief artistic career and enjoyed little critical success, despite the patronage of his contemporary and fellow abstract painter, Pablo Picasso. But nearly half a century after Congo's artistic career, some of his paintings are going on sale at a prestigious London auction house alongside works by Andy Warhol and Renoir.

Three tempera on paper works — brightly colored compositions of bold brushstrokes — will be featured as a single lot in the sale of Modern and Contemporary Art at Bonhams on June 20, the auctioneer said Wednesday. The lot estimate is between $1,130-$1,500. Bonhams said it believed the auction is a first.

"I would sincerely doubt that chimpanzee art has ever been auctioned before," said Howard Rutkowski, the auction house's director of modern and contemporary art. "I don't think anybody else has been crazy enough to do this. I'm sure other auction houses think this is completely mad."

Congo, who was born in 1954, produced some 400 drawings and paintings between the ages of 2 and 4. It was not immediately known if he was still alive, a Bonhams spokeswoman said. In 1957, animal behaviorist Desmond Morris organized an exhibition of chimpanzee art at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts, including works by Congo. Critics reacted with a mixture of scorn and skepticism, but Picasso is recorded as having owned a painting by Congo, Bonhams said.

In all likelihood, given the average lifespan of a chimpanzee, Congo has joined Van Gogh, Modigliani and various other dead guys in the ranks of great artists who were unappreciated in their own lifetime. (And lest you think these are just more of my knee-jerk partisan pro-monkey politics, I suggest you check out some of Congo's work. It's really good!) Do you even realize how these artists are sitting around in the afterlife trashing us? The walls of heaven's coffee shops ring with Van Gogh's "She never loved me" and Modigliani's "It's not like tuberculosis medicine would have been that expensive" and Congo's "Pick my back" and Van Gogh's "Oh, yeah, they all love Starry Night *now*" and Modigliani's "I was doing that Africa stuff decades before Picasso" and Congo's "Are you going to finish that banana?"

I have long advocated giving every monkey in the world a bucket of paint. Worst case scenario, we end up with a bunch of blue and red monkeys looking sheepish. I say this to the leaders of the world: you're botching the job, let me take over for a while.

I really want those paintings, but I am well aware that heartless manipulators with large checkbooks will drive up the bidding. I actually would pay a thousand dollars for three good paintings by a famous monkey. Probably you knew that, though. I would frame them, and next to them I would frame my credit card statement, which would read 'PAINTINGS BY FAMOUS MONKEY'.


I was turned down for the lycopene study because Dr. Wu measured me at 6 feet tall, which is a full three inches shorter than I actually am, according to the physical I had before I left for Japan in 2003. My weight is normal for my actual height, but Dr. Wu did manage to weigh me correctly, so my actual weight at my non-actual height would make me kind of overweight and thereby disqualified for the study group. Now, I'm not saying that Dr. Wu is a jabbering incompetent lunatic but I do find it odd that I would lose three inches of height during a period of time when all I did was go to Japan and talk to Japanese people. If Japan has actually found a way to make visitors shorter, then I believe a number of health alerts are called for, as well as a motherfucking APB on that traitorous bastard Rick Moranis. The more plausible explanation, of course, is that Dr. Wu blew it, so the woman in charge of the study said I could come back in July and participate in that dosing group.

I woke up in a strange place is the work of Marc Heiden, born in 1978, author of two books (Chicago, Hiroshima) and some plays, and an occasional photographer.

Often discussed:

Antarctica, Beelzetron, Books, Chicago, College, Communism, Food, Internet, Japan, Manute Bol, Monkeys and Apes, North Korea, Oregon Trail, Outer Space, Panda Porn, Politics, RabbiTech, Shakespeare, Sports, Texas.


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Written by Marc Heiden, 1997-2011.