I’ve been yearning to visit Tasmania forever, and having lived in Melbourne for 18 years now, it’s ridiculous that I haven’t been before. I’ve heard so much about the fantastic food, the pristine countryside and rugged coastline, the culture, and MONA. My kind of place.
We finally made our first trip over the Easter holidays, spending ten days in Hobart and touring around the east coast. Tasmania turned on the charm and was everything I’d hoped for, and more. We had a ball and I wanted to share my favourite things with you. The first is MONA.
MONA, Museum of Old and New Art is the largest privately owned and funded museum in Australia, displaying antiquities and modern and contemporary artworks from David Walsh’s own collection, as well as visiting exhibitions. I had been impatient to visit since it opened in 2011, so after a five year build up, did it live up to the hype? YES! Bloody hell, yes! From the moment we boarded the ferry, on a glorious autumn, clear and sunshiny day, with it’s great soundtrack and sheep for seats, I was full of nervous anticipation.
The ominous descent into the windowless void of the museum itself, via an endless spiral staircase, seemed like entering the underworld, setting the scene for the themes of sex and death. Around every corner I was challenged, amazed and inspired by the controversial, provocative and ethereal.
A major retrospective of Britain’s confrontational and anarchic Gilbert and George took up the entire lower floor galleries. I’m amazed that in the 40 years they’ve been making political art, their sentiments were so of their time, and yet so spot on today.
Amongst a huge selection of utterly astounding artworks from the museum’s main collection, the ones that stood out for me, for various reasons and in no particular order: Stephen Shanabrook’s On the Road to Heaven The Highway to Hell – remnants of a suicide bomber cast in dark chocolate (provocative, shocking); Greg Taylor and friends C**ts and Other Conversations – 151 white, sculpted, life-size vulvas (serene, mesmerising); You’ll have to go to see these with your own eyes – I’m not going to pre-empt the experience for you here.
Some works were more about the experience, and impossible to capture in a photograph; The Death Gallery – the ancient Egyptian coffin and mummy of Pausiris, privately enclosed in a darkened, claustrophobic gallery, approached, two people at a time, over stepping stones suspended in black water, silent except for the sound of dripping.
Bit.Fall by Julius Popp – a multi-storey, cavernous waterfall of droplets spelling out random words from internet searches (awe-inspiring, hypnotic); Wim Delvoye’s Cloaca Professional, a digestive machine that turns food into faeces (simultaneously repulsive and fascinating, organic and clinical).
I think the work that most got under my skin was Gregory Barsamian’s Artifact, a serene, monolithic metal head lying on it’s side, with internal strobe lights illuminating random moving objects, like synapses going off in the brain, experienced through holes in the eyes, nostrils and other spaces around (not recommended for those affected by strobe lights). A matched soundtrack playing through the headphones of my personal ‘O’ system guided tour ipod made me feel that I was literally having my mind expanded.
As we ascended to the real world, and exited, blinking, into the sunlight, we were welcomed by the café with delicious food in a stunning setting. A huge trampoline was an unexpected and delightful surprise.
I absolutely love that David Walsh has created his vision in his home town, that Tasmanians are able to visit free of charge, and that they have proudly taken ownership of this world class museum. MONA itself is an unpredictable work of art, and emotions of every kind are to be experienced here.
Thanks to MONA for their permission to use these images, their generous help with information for captioning and the use of their Artifact images.
8 thoughts on “Tasmania Part One – MONA”
Lovely post and great pics! Isn’t it fun, catching the ferry there, drinking some bubbles or a beer while sitting on a sheep’s back? The experience really is immersive. Like, you, I found it a totally new, and wonderful, way to experience and engage with art. (Our daughter’s voice is captured inside Patrick’s Hall’s work at MONA, saying ‘I love you’ along with about 50 other voices-mesmerising. ‘When my heart Stops Beating’) I also love the large, strobe-filled head!
Really interesting T!
Thanks George, I reckon you and Nick would love it, but might be a bit far to go in limited time when you come over later this year.
What a great commentary on your visit. I have always longed to visit Tasmania, and MONA. You further whet my appetite with your post. How amazing that it is free for Tasmanians to visit!
You must go Dani! It’s brilliant!
You can’t forget to wonder just what makes art art when you visit Mona! I loved the outside entrance as well . . . . but I don’t think that was thought of as art.
Looks like a well curated (if such a phrase exists) of art. I often struggle with modern pieces – always have, but in the right setting, their appeal is clear.
You’re right in that it was all about the setting. I think it’s because David Walsh has been able to realise his vision without any outside pressure from government funding, board members, or whatever else. Every artwork is presented with the whole experience in mind, not just visual. I think the artist’s true intent is translated to the viewer. I’m a bit the same with some modern artwork. Sometimes it seems a bit of an ’emperor’s new clothes’ situation where people say they like something because everyone else seems to. This was a completely different experience. I had strong emotional responses to a lot of the work, and felt as if I’d really had my eyes opened wide. There were many ancient and classic works alongside the modern, curated and displayed to play against and compliment one another which was also fascinating.