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Tasmania’s Controversial Museum

by The E.A.T. Team

Tasmania is, despite erroneous myths of inbreeding and being overrun by hillbillies, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Generally a peaceful, quiet rural island full of great fresh food from local farmers and stunning natural beauty, you wouldn’t expect to find one of the most shockingly un-vanilla art museums in the world on the island. Chock full of penises, macabre, and unexplained homages to pop stars, this museum is an odd-for-its-setting but refreshing and intriguing place.

MONA was officially opened on 21 January 2011. $100 million museum owned by David Walsh, it is the largest privately funded museum in Australia. The impressive building in Berriedale took more than three years to complete and is as interesting as the art it contains. At the end of the vineyard-lined driveway, visitors are greeted with an amazing view of Hobart and the first surprise – a rooftop tennis court speckled with giant Mickey Mouse-esque glove shaped seats.

The building itself, designed by the Melbourne architect Nonda Katsalidis and built by Hansen Yuncken, is an engineering feat – three levels underground, carved into the sandstone cliffs of Berriedale Peninsula. Inside is a labyrinth of spiral staircases, lifts and foot bridges. There are concrete floors, beautiful wooden benches and beanbags offering guests a place to sit and digest the works on show.

At the bottom of the staircase sits a bar serving Moorilla wines and Moo Brew, which are both made onsite. Walsh positioned the bar here stating that, “You’re here to have a good time”. He believes that the understanding of many of the museum’s artworks is assisted by increased alcohol levels.

Upon arrival at MONA, you are given an iPod and headphones. Using clever software and GPS, the devices automatically detect where you are standing in the museum and offer information about nearby artworks. You can hear interviews, music, and even rate whether or not you like each piece of art. All data is uploaded randomly, making the information you are reading different to everyone else around you. At the end of your tour you can opt to receive an email telling you how long you spent at each piece and offering links to more facts about the work.

Among the 400 pieces on show, a couple really stood out to us. ‘Cloaca Professional’ by Belgian artist Wim Delvoye, is a machine that imitates the human digestive system, producing waste at regular intervals. This intriguing mad scientist approach to such a natural bodily process really interested us. Inspired by his belief that everything in modern life is pointless, the most useless object he could dream up was a machine that serves no purpose at all, besides the reduction of food to waste. Despite the unavoidable stench in the room, the intricately constructed pods with digital displays of temperature and pressure entice you to take a closer look. The work seems to make comment on the art world and how it has been so far consumed it has almost ‘come out the other end’.

In a room resembling an over sized light-box, 30 Madonna fans sing renditions of her Immaculate Collection album, each one on their own TV screen. This exploration of idol-ism and super fandom is sure to make anyone smile. They all sing like no one is watching with dramatic gestures and the glimmer of hope that Madonna might one day see the footage, making it a refreshing and lighthearted installation in an art collection heavy with dark subject matters.

That's a whole lot of poop.

Another piece that got our attention was an installation called ‘Fat Car’ by Erwin Wurm. The bulging red body work of the Porsche Carrera seems to make comment on consumer over-indulgence. Wurm takes one of the world’s most desirable objects and totally defaces it, almost beyond recognition. The perfect red paintwork stretched uncomfortably over the bloated body turns a once beautiful object into a beautifully shiny, but ultimately useless pile of car. The detail is impeccable, even the interior is ballooned – the seats bulge at the seems and the wing mirrors are covered in swelled red metal. Well known for the use of humor in his works, Wurm has been quoted saying: “If you approach things with a sense of humor, people immediately assume you’re not to be taken seriously. But I think truths about society and human existence can be approached in different ways. You don’t always have to be deadly serious. Sarcasm and humor can help you see things in a lighter vein.”

http://mona.net.au/

655 Main Road | Moorilla Estate, Berriedale, Tasmania, Australia

T: (61-3) 6277-9900

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