Day 177: Weird Stuff Wednesday (Censored)

Wed, 6th February 2013

Crushed carAbout two years ago a new museum was opened in Tasmania, created by an eccentric philanthropist David Walsh. It is called MONA short for Museum of Old and New Art and is described in our guide book as an underground temple of artwork that will delight, amuse, amaze, challenge, confront, engage and astonish you. The museum has been raved about and seems to be building an international reputation that belies the tiny size of Tasmania. The last time Graham and Chris went there were long queues to get in so they did not wait. This will therefore be their first visit too so we are all quite excited. The first exhibit we see is in the car park and is a wrecked car wedged between two concrete walls and this sets the tone of much of what is to come. The notes state that a stunt driver drove (crashed) the car into position on the opening day in January 2011.

Exhibition guide on iPod. Check out the icons!On entering the museum we were each given an iPod Touch and headphones which gives you all the information you need on each exhibit – and more! There are no labels on the exhibits and no printed museum guide. The modern approach extends to the design and layout of the museum which starts at ground level and works downwards. It is perhaps not as big as Tate Modern in London, but it is very spacious and there is exhibition space for some large and intriguing (and challenging pieces). We start on level B3 and work our way up to ground level.

Cement mixer - made from iron railings!The museum includes some pieces whose primary objective is to shock or at least challenge and at times achieves this very successfully. Common themes are sex and death but many pieces are beautiful and thought provoking (as well as being bizarre). On the lowest level there is a room marked parental discretion required – this applies to your parents as well as your children!  Many exhibits are completely off the wall. For example there is a contraption that mimics the human digestive system – food and water in one end and solid, smelly waste out of the other. No wonder people sometimes say what they do about modern art.

Genuine old mummyOne of Dave’s favourites was a set of nested rooms with binary numbers set on the granite walls,  mirrored ceiling in the centre and ancient artefacts with cuneiform writing nested in recesses in the walls. Interspersed with these modern pieces are a number of very old exhibits including mummies and old coins. To me these old exhibits were completely swamped by the modern pieces and seemed out of place.

Words written in falling drops of waterOther exhibits are very clever and leave us pondering how they work. There is one which appears to be an illuminated vertical line but on looking away you see a word out of the corner of your eye. There are notes on our iPod explaining why this is but it is in technical speak [Editor’s note: think of how an inkjet printer works]. Another piece is an upside down fountain where the nozzles can be controlled so that the drops of water spell out words. Just incredibly clever.

Fat Car - Indicative of how bloated society has becomeAfter a couple of hours of being shocked and challenged and in awe of the scale of some of the pieces and the sheer diversity of the collection (which is reputedly worth $100m), we are in need of a break and sustenance. We head off to the café, find a shady spot and enjoy a bite to eat as we soak up the sunshine and discuss what we have seen. There is, however, more to see so we head back for another hour or so until we reach the end and are completely mentally exhausted trying to make sense of it all.

Relaxing at MONALuckily, the museum is situated in the grounds of the Moorilla Estate winery where there is  cellar door wine tasting and so we head off to see if that will help us get to grips with the museum. The wines are sold under two labels – the Muse label of traditional (old world) wines; and the Praxis label of new world wine. The creator of the museum wanted to continue the theme of new and old thus creating the two labels.

Reflections of MONAAs expected, I really enjoyed the bubbly but the remaining wines were nothing special. Chris’ sister used to be a winemaker and so Chris has had tasting lessons from an expert. She and Dave had fun talking ‘wine-speak’ with the server but afterwards both agreed that they had expected more from the wines. That said we did have a thoroughly good time trying the wines and felt we had our money’s worth from the $10 tasting charge.

Harbour at nightThe three things we were told to enjoy in Tassie were scenery, wine and food, especially the fish. We have certainly achieved the first two and to do the latter we went to Mures Upper Deck, a fish restaurant on the wharf in Hobart’s harbour. We were not disappointed by the local fish (Trevalla and Wahu) and the meal was complemented by some yummy Tasmanian wine and very agreeable company.

Poor Chris and Graham were then guinea pigs for our photos of Bolivia, Chile and Argentina and we found that we have a lot more work to do in rating them to produce an acceptable show for friends when we get home.

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