Mona Roma To MONA in Hobart, Tasmania
But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.”Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.””How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.”You must be,” said the Cat, or you wouldn’t have come here.” Lewis Carroll
What happens when an art collector/mathematician uses his ability to beat the odds in casinos and makes millions of dollars? If it is David Walsh, he builds an art museum in Hobart Tasmania. He builds the most expensive privately owned museum in Australia. It opened in January 2011. The museum is called MONA – the Museum of Old and New Art Modern art and ancient artifacts are shown side by side. It is free if you live in Tasmania. It has quickly become their number one tourist attraction . (MONA ROMA dock)
The day begins on a camoflage painted boat in the Hobart Harbor called the MONA ROMA (get it ?roamer?) complete with sculptures of livestock in the back. You can also drive (it is a peninsula) or take a taxi boat.
They serve champagne, coffee and hor d’oeurves during the half hour journey on the Derwent River. The arty people who I did not see when I arrived in Hobart are on this boat at 930 am.
When you get to MONA it is hard to find the entrance. There is a mirrored building behind a tennis court . Apparently David Walsh likes tennis.
“When you go to a conventional museum you are forced to walk up stairs and past pillars meant to make you feel small and then have academics tell you it’s culture but David wanted none of that so he built this place underground.”, according to the curator.
After finding the entrance, you are given an Ipod Touch. It uses GPS to work out which piece of art you are standing in front of. (Lobby)
The Ipod Touch called the 0 is one of the things that makes museum designers very curious about MONA.
As the guide says: ‘We don’t have labels on the walls. We have the O. Use it to read about the art on display and to listen to interviews with the artists. It’s free.’ (Fat car, Erwin Wum)
There is a running commentary by David Walsh, artist interviews and explanations. They have cute names, like the truth, the gospel, gonzo (that would be David Walsh), Tweedle dum (that could be David Walsh) and Jabberwocky and art wank. Pick the explanation you want to hear. (1$ for your story James Newitt series of photos and stories)
Enter your email address, and you’ll later be sent a diagram of the route you took through MONA and the artworks you saw.
When you tap on the icon for the artwork, information appears along with a place you could check if you loved or hated it – way too subjective for modern art . I don’t like to make decisions when I am looking at artwork. Sometimes I didn’t use the O at all. But that is probably ok with David Walsh also. ( The Mice And Me by Meghan Boody)
According to my visit email, I did hit love for Berlin Buddha by Zhang Huan. It is made from incense ash collected from temples around Shanghai and faces its hollowed aluminum counterpart. The ash moves and decomposes with time. It is based on the concept in Buddhism from “existence to nothing.” Yes the artist is a Buddhist.
There is no flash photography and they will charge your phone at the coat check while you are having lunch, if you take too many pictures and use up your battery. (personal experience )
From the lobby, a spiral staircase descends 17 meters underground, ending in an open basement with a 250-million-year-old Triassic sandstone wall (the rock it was built on)
There are three levels of steel and stone filled with art, objects and a lot of video /techno works. It is all shocking, educational and entertaining.
Visitors are encouraged to get lost in the maze of dark hallways, where hidden staircases might turn into open galleries and rooms go out into dead ends. I missed a few important exhibits on the first day but found them on the second. Whatever you see during your visit is what you are supposed to see. There is no set route.
It feels like the “art ride” at Disneyland, but in a good way. From the minute you walk in to the exhibition space all five senses are engaged. They stay that way for your entire visit. My first visit was eight hours. ( Paradise by Kutlug Ataman)
Being an avid museum goer all my life, it was hard to not to keep looking for those plaques to tell me what I was seeing. Not being technologically adept, I had some trouble with the O at first. But it is such a techno place, the O kind of works. I like having the record of my visit (I had a few glitches the first time – the second time I knew how to do it perfectly.) to refer back to as I write this. ( The Frieze Of War Treasures by Sarkis)
The exhibition is called the Red Queen. And it is interspersed with some of the original collection. “The Queen is driven, by abstract forces, to run in order to keep pace with the world around her. However fast she goes, she never seems ‘to pass anything””[Do] all the things move along with us?” wonders Alice.’… Is human-ness nothing but a set of such behaviours? The answer, we hope will remain elusive; there will be no lessons learnt or taught, only contagious inquiry into human nature.” From the Mona website ( Untitled White Library by Wilfredo Prieto)
Many of my favorite pieces were the video ones and the death gallery that I couldn’t photograph or explain. (Artifact by Gregory Barsamian – This is amazing. It is giant head with window holes in it and this photo is of one of the videos in the head)
I had a cold. Tasmania is one of the largest producers of pharmaceutical opium and has some pretty strong cold medicines. I was taking them. From the moment I tripped down those stairs, I was definitely having the full Through the Looking Glass Art experience. (Zizi the Affectionate Couch with sounds by Stephen Barass, Linda Davy, Robert Davy, Kerry Richens)