Warning, this blog post contains lots of explicit material! I mean lots!!
I’m currently sitting in MONA, which is the Museum of Old and New Art just outside of Hobart, which is the state capital of Tasmania, a small outpost of gourmet food and fine whiskeys at the ‘ass end of the world’. Tasmania use to be the ultimate penal colony as not only was it impossible to get off the island, even if you did escape you’d most likely freeze to death.
It’s my first real escape from lockdown and technically overseas from mainland Australia. At this point I’ll take what I can get. To get to MONA there’s a camouflage ferry from Hobart, which is where the weird begins. From gorillas staring in the window at you to the rows of sheep upon which you can sit, it’s an experience in itself.
On arrival after you make it up the long stairway to the entrance, there’s another stairway which takes you all the way down into the basement at which point there’s a cocktail bar. Whilst far be it from me to suggest a cocktail to begin with, to be honest, the artwork may make more sense if you did. I resisted the temptation at 11am to order a drink and started to wander through the galleries.
As with many contemporary art galleries, they’re designed to offend you and if you’re not confronted and offended by something then obviously they’re not trying hard enough. As I overheard one couple saying. This place is just about sex and death, which pretty much sums the whole place up. If it’s not a gallery filled with falaces and vaginas, it’s filled with headless bodies, tombstones and children brandishing knives. Maybe a quick trip back to the bar would have been a good idea at this point in time.
There are many places in which you can take a break and sit down, although one wonders if you’re then just part of the art installations. As I sit here half watch a repeating video of people making out, next to an extremely offensive painting of a kangaroo ‘interfering’ with one of Australia’s early explorers you realise that much of what’s here is designed to try and get a visceral reaction.
Unlike the national gallery in London which I’ve written about before, this is less bold and European imperialist and more just weird shit. But that’s not to say it’s not a great educational experience. This is certainly not for primary schools, however, for your senior art students, or even your politics history students it’s a fascinating look into Australian art and contemporary political topics on sex, death and gender.
It’s an all encompassing experience which has to be lived to really appreciate. There’s some great pieces of art and some crap ones, but as art goes, what I may find brilliant, you may think is complete bollocks and vice versa. Would I want this in my house? Probably not, but it’s well worth the trip to what is an extraordinarily odd place to visit.