All Photographs + Text Copyright 2006 Christopher Keeley
Dada to the Bone
Being a Dadaist myself for many years without knowing the true concept going to the Dada exhibit at the national Gallery was a rush. For a period of about eight years I made collages, sent out mail art receiving art in the mail on a daily basis and I considered it bad luck not to reply to everything received no matter how absurd. Collages became compulsive and I obsessively filled these books with everything that moved me, scared me, depressed me, and what gave me compassion for life.
The excitement of dreams, fantasies while living as a surrealist gave me hope in my own private way through the construction of paradoxical political collages. I also glued in the pages love letters, rejection letters from publishers and potential art projects. It occupied my day and night.
The Internet basically killed the mail art and collages for me. I don't regret it as I have able to move on in a totally new form to be a Dadaist and surrealist through the means of mass communication via email, web logs, live journals and eventually posting every photograph and collage on the web.
The day started out with a date to Georgetown on a mission to stock up on shower products for two, at the Lush store. My new bathroom will encourage entice any shy person to take a shower together, even though the biggest sacrifice is missing my therapeutically relaxing baths. Barbara and I popped into a Tea store to only find out that if we wanted to have a cozy meal both prime tables were taken.
We head towards the Dada show, but Barbara unexpectingly decides she cant go on to the exhibit without eating something first and is considering bailing on me asking if I like to go to Art exhibits alone. She may cramp my style. I refuse any compromise and insist that the whole point of us getting together is to share in the joys of Dada art together. She is feeling like a diabetic without insulin because she had been Flamenco dancing all morning without breakfast. The Cosi on Capital Hill is our next stop for a club sandwich. I practice my voyeur skills while watching a young pregnant woman and eavesdropping on a handsome white haired elderly gentleman that Barbara has pointed out, which is interviewing an artist of some kind. He has an instamatic camera while taking notes on a steno pad.
We make it to the National Gallery finding a parking space. The line is half an hour long. Luckily while Barbara was getting a Dada Newspaper program I spot an Attorney, in our General Counsel's office from our Agency, with his wife and kids. He is completely in a friendly cynical mode, commenting that his wife told him that it wouldn't be crowded. This wouldnÕt be the first attorney to see me out on a date with Barbara, because while going over a case at work, the previous morning, the attorney commented on seeing us with my mother at a Greek restaurant and assumed we were married. I said wife no. The attorney says, yes, she works at the Agency, I have seen her around. I give her the Chris Keeley silent treatment. We move on. After a terrible no compromise discussion about Hamas. I am pro-Palestinian.
Barbara arrives with the programs, and I then notice another friend in line, Bill P. This time I am proud to show off my date, as this guy's family has donated tons of PicassoÕs and priceless works to Museums. Barbara is also beautiful, sophisticated and polite. He also is with his beautiful wife. He has a cane, which disturbs me. However when I approach him he lights up like a Christmas tree and shakes my hand. I immediately produce my business card. Any opportunity to get a wealthy patron. Bill says Coincidently I was reading your book yesterday. He bought my book in 1994! He is so connected to the art world coming from a philanthropic family. If my memory serves well his father founded CBS and collected art in Paris in the 30Õs and 40Õs. I am thinking why does Bill have to wait in line like the rest of us common people. Maybe he didn't go to the fancy opening for the VIPÕs. When I see people I know in strange places, I look at it as a coincidence or God's way of telling me I am on the right path doing the right thing.
I should have left my camera at home because I frequently get in to trouble. The guards at the Corcoran are kind and somewhat tolerant of first offenders. The guards at the National Gallery have no mercy. My friend Rick, who was eating grapes by some French impressionists paintings was arrested and thrown in jail. RickÕs obnoxiously rude and entitled behavior did not help the matter.
I took a picture of the first Dada painting in the first gallery and a guard said you might not photograph the artwork. I said ok. The next gallery had to many guards so I was being careful but not thinking rationally. My criminal mind led me to believe that I could at least steal a few shots, after all this is a Dada exhibit, mischievousness is all about the art. Anti-authortarianism goes hand in hand with be a Dadaist. People were encouraged; at least men were encouraged to wear a pink bra on the outside and to randomly talk absurdities at every fourth work of art. It was too crowed to do anything of the kind. All the gallery viewers were super art serious.
In front of the National Gallery
I took a shot with my flash like a nimrod. In the next three galleries I attempt to take a shot of a Max Ernst painting, not something I really needed to do. I could always buy the catalogue, which I do, find the same work on the Internet, but no I have to compulsively take a photograph. The gallery is crawling with guards, I did make a pan a saw no one in uniform. My forte is with portraits and shooting works in a museum, is really not going to be of the quality that satisfies my artistic urge. I have to do it anyway.
I aim at the Max Ernst surrealistic oil painting and a female guard puts her hand on my shoulder and shouts, Mister you have to leave the gallery now. She escorts me with another guard and says he has been taking photographs all over the place. Having been in similar circumstances, I immediately drop into my completely courteous, compliant, apologetic, IÕll do what ever you say mode.
I apologize to the guard confessing I know I was wrong. It is too late at this point to say I wonÕt do it again. Anticipating my biggest fear, are they going to confiscate my camera. My embarrassment is that I am now trying to blend in with the art so that I am not noticed as a stupid criminal. Did anyone I know see me being escorted out of the National Gallery? My next thought is where is Barbara? I am whisked away into a back elevator.
It may have been God's plan all along because had I not been escorted out, I would have never captured this truly amazing portrait of the elderly Seik grandfather, being at the right place at the right time. I call Barbara's cell phone leaving a message that I am out front because I have been escorted out of the National Gallery. Barbara soon arrives commenting Seeing me with the guards in the elevator and it closing in on her because she could say Dada.
In front of the National Gallery