We visited the famed MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) today. I had been quite keen on seeing David Walsh's staggering $100m art collection and the $75m building they're housed in for a while now, and after hearing accounts of how "shocking", "erotically disturbing" and "ethically challenging" some of the exhibits were, we braced ourselves for the worst!
The view from there was breathtaking! Sweeping interrupted views of the Derwent River, dotted waterfront houses and Mt Wellington in the backdrop.
What I absolutely loved about MONA was that upon entry, you're provided headphones and a device (a modded iPod) called the O which provides you with artist information, "art wank" and some supplementary interviews for every single piece on display there (as none of the displays have a label or name next to them).
The O picks up on your location and lets you know of the artworks that are nearby. I loved the O and thought it was super cool and brilliant - one of my pet hates with museums/galleries is that people tend to crowd around the label on the wall, making it both frustrating to read and to peruse the displays at your desired pace (you end up queuing half the time). The O also allows you to save your tour, which you can retrieve at later time using your email. Sweet!
I didn't take a great amount of photos inside, but here's a small selection:
This was right outside the Pulse Room. The artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer explains, "When someone holds onto the sensors, their heart rate is detected and sets off the closest bulb to flash at the exact rhythm of their heart. The flashing bulbs then advance by one bulb position down the queue to the next bulb. Each time someone touches sensors, their heart pattern is recorded and sent to the first bulb, pushing ahead all the existing recordings. At any given time the installation shows the recordings from the most recent participants."
Knitted video tape! (This picture makes the bear look like it's knitted out of little hearts)
The head of a mummified cat. Next to this was a "kitten trophy rug" :'(
Ah the Cloaca by Wim Delvoye! This 'shit machine' represents the human digestive system. It's fed twice daily and produces poo at the end of each day. The room that it sits in is pungent. I found it adversely interesting, surprisingly a lot of people 'hate' it (you can rate that you 'love' or 'hate' each artwork using the O). Read that this machine "reputed cost a million dollars, but then again, Walsh owns a single coin that cost half a million".
I found this humorous video on the Cloaca. I think it's the voiceover's accent.
Sidney Nolan's Snake which consists of 1620 individual frames (each of them unique) was an overwhelming, massive 45m long sight to behold. All of MONA has been built around this single work.
The White Library, which houses 6000 white books and papers, all of them blank.
And lastly, the mummy and coffin of Ta-Sheret-Min 664-399 BCE.
It was almost sensory overload at times. I think there are only so many extreme close ups of vaginas I can handle. But then again, the thing about MONA is that you go there expecting to be shocked and surprised - almost like visiting a haunted prison. At the end of our tour, I was undecided whether there was a piece I particularly loved more than the rest, however there were many I found very, very interesting, such as:
- Jenny Saville's painting entitled Matrix, of transgender photographer Del LaGrace Volcano's portrait. I found it disturbing, a little troubling, but strangely magnetic.
- The Death Room which contains precarious steps surrounded by water to lead you to the viewing of a mummy (apparently somewhere in this room hides a secret doorway to David Walsh's private apartment..?!)
- Videos of Daniel Mudie Cunningham dancing to Tina Turner's Proud Mary (his funeral song choice) which are filmed every 5 years to document his ageing process. He'll continue this until his death. (I actually felt very strongly to this one - I love this idea)
- The remnants of a suicide bomber (spilled guts and all) cast in dark chocolate aptly titled On The Road to Heaven the Highway to Hell by Stephen j Shanabrook.
- While admiring a display case containing precious old coins and artefacts, a little fish appeared right before my eyes. It was then I realised this case was filled with water. The fish was a cute touch!
- A voluntary euthanasia machine complete with computerised questionnaire (with questions like "If you press this button in 30 seconds you will die, do you wish to proceed?") and a timer with updates on what's happening to your body, titled My Beautiful Chair by Greg Taylor and Dr. Philip Nitschke. After 3 minutes and 10 seconds, the screen flashes "You are now dead".
Our visit wasn't complete without visiting the MONA Shop, where I had previously been told to watch out for this baby. My first taste of MONA's shock value was when I noticed the museum guide they handed out to everyone (including young kids) on the ferry before we arrived at MONA contained a picture of this soap along with its correct name - not this tame vagina nonsense - but "c*nt soap" in its full glory. Eeps!
Vagina soap didn't quite appeal to me, so I picked up this nifty syringe pen instead.
After trekking around MONA all morning, we feasted at their restaurant, The Source. We opted for a 7-course degustation lunch (because
Spanner crab, smoked oyster, pedro xeminez jellya and foie gras cubes,
Morton Bay bug poached in olive oil with raspberries,
Iki-jime line caught ocean trout with lemon, baby leek, apple, radish, green tomato jelly and anchovy crumb,
Roast duck with chocolate coated foie gras, red cabbage kimchi and cherry chutney.
And finally, deconstructed tiramisu for dessert. This simple looking dish is deceivingly delicious! That sponge is sooo moist and devine.
It was an incredibly long lunch which perfectly showcased the produce Tasmania that is so well known for, and by the end of it I was so full that it was hard to move.. the thought of skipping dinner even crossed my mind (which is crazy talk)!
This sums up what I thought about MONA.
It was confronting and startling at times, but mostly astonishing, entertaining and thought provoking, as evidenced by Brett's pensive thinking.
Amazing produce, fresh air, pure water, fantastic wines, scenery that's hard to beat and now a world class attraction (free entry for Tasmanians) - you Tasmanians are a lucky lot!
Ps. how many times did I say 'vagina' in this post?!