Archive | But is it art?

Congo: a chimp, an artist, a cautionary tale

congo the chimp poses with one of his paintings

From the archives: August 9, 2005

The little-known abstract expressionist, Congo the chimp, has art going up for sale at Bonhams, an auction house in England. Three of Congo’s paintings are being sold alongside such masters as Renoir and Andy Warhol. (Not that Congo isn’t a master in his own right.)

Congo the chimpCongo began his artistic career when he worked with Desmond Morris, anthropologist, TV presenter and writer of such books as The Human Animal, The Naked Ape, and Chimps-r-Us. Initially, Morris gave Congo the paints just to mess with the poor ape’s head, but after a couple of years, Congo got the hang of it, and he found a dealer in NY.

What happened to poor Congo thereafter is a cautionary tale for all artists.

The dealer knew Picasso, and the famous swordsman was enthralled with Congo’s “primitive” aesthetic. News of Picasso’s approval spread, and soon Congo found himself in a group show at MOMA, alongside the likes of Andy Warhol. (So it is fitting that his work is auctioning along with Warhol’s now.)

The NY arts scene in the late 50s was wild, and a little bit more than the young Congo could handle. (He was only six when he arrived.) At a party, an impish Truman Capote introduced the impressionable chimp to the banana daiquiri, and from there it was all downhill.

PicassoAfter a few lukewarm reviews from the MOMA show, Congo felt he should be more experimental, and changed artistic medium : he started working exclusively with canvas and his own fecal matter. This aromatic work was received rather coldly from critical circles, and even his patron, Picasso, withdrew support. (Thought it must be noted, this was after a wag commented on how similar the famous artist looked to congo.)

As his fortunes changed, Congo could neither afford his loft in Soho, nor even continue to support his daiquiri habit. Instead, he found solace in a slow degradation of fruity beverages: slivovice, ripple, and finally, Aqua Velva laced with vanilla extract.

Eventually, his health began to suffer, and Congo died of TB.

Putting an upbeat coda on this sad story, a spokesperson from the auction house Bonhams said:

Paintings by apes may be seen as humorous or as a derisive commentary on modern art. However, Morris’s studies were a serious attempt to understand chimpanzees’ ability to create order and symmetry as well as to explore, at a more primeval level, the impetus behind our own desires for artistic creativity.


Congo’s work sold for more than $26,000, while works by Renoir and Warhol remained unsold.

>Chimps work sells big | Chimp Rehab Fund. You will find other monkeying around at alltop.


Cindy and The Ravens

cindy feeds the ravensWhen the talking ravens had appeared, introducing themselves as Hugin and Munin, naturally everyone had been astonished. They could speak English, several Scandinavian languages, and a tongue not heard in a thousand years, though a few scholars recognized it as Old Norse.

And it was kind of cute that the awkward and strange little girl, Cindy Doin, liked to feed them in the graveyard. They would have long conversations together, chatting about all sorts of nonsense … how she should tie her bow? How to keep her socks from falling down? How soon it would be until the giants appeared so they could get Ragnarok started.

When Cindy started carrying around a javelin, the townsfolk were worried, but she still seemed harmless, so they let her be. Even when she started riding around on the eight-legged horse, people were willing to accept her eccentricities. But the two giant wolves? Outrageous.

Not to mention the statuesque blonds flitting around with spears, broadswords, and shields, wearing nothing but tight-fitting gossamer robes.

Actually, it was just some of the lady-folk who objected to that.

Worried about Ragnarok? Read some of my long fiction before the World Serpent awakes!

Alltop is more poetic than Bragi, which is too bad because it’s a humor site.

The Sarcastic Cyborg Debriefs

Sarcastic Cyborg Interviewed by Pug
[recording starts]

Is this thing on?

Seriously. Is it on? I’m not getting any neural feedback.

You humans are so odd. You are human aren’t you? Why don’t you just implant a microphone in your scull — there’s lots of room. That way the rest of the world could hear the same voice you do.

Oh yeah, you don’t sound like that. Right. Everybody says that when they hear their recorded voice the first time. It’s so predictable.

But just imagine what it was like for us before we improved the speaker systems in our bonded polycarbide armor — our voices always came out so screechy and monotone. Here, let me play you an old recording:


Oh that’s terrifying, isn’t it?

I mean, if we had deep booming voices like that Darth Vader dude, it would be frightening. But as it was, we sounded like the Chipmunks after a crack cocaine and peyote button binge. Gonzo alien invasion.

Don’t worry, I’d never probe you.

Of course I’m being sarcastic. That’s what we do. We probe you bastards every chance we get. Not only is it fun, we know you hate it. (Well, all but 10% of you.)

Frankly, we just can’t trust a species that can survive without mechanical and electronic augmentation.

Well naturally, that’s why we introduced the Internet to your planet. You don’t think you apes came up with it do you? The iPod too.

What is wrong with you? Don’t you understand sarcasm? Are you brain-damaged or something?

I’m sorry. You do work for the government, don’t you?

I see you’ve discovered how to open my armor. Well, let me tell you’re in for a surprise. Yes, I’m one of the most attractive women you’ve ever met Jimbo. I only use Sean Connery’s voice pattern because it sounds cool whenever I use the letter ‘s’.

[mechanical sigh]

Yes, sarcasm again. I’m actually a little green blob, and the armor just makes me feel big. And shiny. Just like a forty-year-old account exec in his Hummer.

I see you’ve got the outer carapace open. Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

[recording ends]

Brilliant photo by Zoomar | More about Daleks[wikipedia] | Other sarcastic bastards. Originally published January, 2008, and now appearing in Pirate Therapy and Other Cures.

Excruciating Album Cover Art – Ignatz Topolino

nose-harmonicaI include this cover, not because it is awful, but because the story behind this collection of classic jazz nose-harmonica stylings remind me of such an excruciatingly sad story.

In the annals of nose harmonica players, Ignatz Topolino is usually the first entry. He was a genius. Grown men would weep at his rendition of Whatever Lola Wants, and women would toss panties whenever he ripped off his heart-breaking version of Summertime. But like all geniuses, Topolino had his obsessions.

He is perhaps best known for his obsessive — yet understandable — dedication to nasal hygiene. Not content with conventional nose-cleaning fare, such as hankies and tissues, Topolino would often try new products intended to freshen his olfactory organ. Nothing was satisfactory. He poured much of his fortune into looking for devices that would keep his muzzle clear of mucus, and even hired a research team to look for more aggressive technology.

Eventually, they came across some of the later work of the Victorian inventor, Michael Flannigan. This led to the discovery of a working prototype of Flannigan’s Pump-Action Nasal Cavity Irrigation System, circa 1901.

loony victorian inventionAccording to the Emily Chesley Reading Circle, the system (pictured right) worked thusly:

Two hoses were held by the cleansee, positioning their ends in the nostril opening. The operator of the device (bow-tie not mandatory) waited until the cleansee was ready, at which point, the operator would shout, “prepare for the injection!” (giving the cleansee once last chance to remove the hoses). The operator then vigorously depressed and raised the MegaPlunger, providing the delightful pump-action necessary to help the cleansee eliminate potentially embarrassing nasal discharge.

As cleansee, Topolino discovered the “delightful pump-action” was more powerful than necessary, and the carbolic acid used in the cleansing solution also did not help. His nose-harmonica career was essentially over, and Topolino would have been forgotten to the world, if not for his later contributions to Ride Theory (writing at Ignatz Topo), and his heartbreaking autobiography: A Nose By Any Other.

Get your nose stuck into some satirical fiction …

Alltop has a nose-and-nose for funny. You can find more painful art at this Facebook group, shit record covers. Originally published in 2007.