Over the last week, I visited some friends in Hobart and among the first and last things that I saw was the art collection housed in the Museum of Old and New Art. Because its a thing you have to see twice to get a real feeling for what is happening behind the battlements of rusted iron that run the perimeter of the roof.
MONA is one of those places that is part Momento-Mori, part Wunderkammer and part Phantasmagoria. It’s like a dream that you wish to return to reality and a nightmare that you don’t want to wake up from. It’s one of the strangest places I have been, and its sitting in one of the cosiest towns. It’s a paradox.
It has some of the most contemporary and confronting art I have seen. The remnants of a suicide bomber, cast in chocolate. A Nitschke suicide machine, next to an old leather couch. A death gallery, containing a mummy and a heavy liability warning before you enter. And there is a machine, made of five glass Amphora-like vessels connected together via pipes. The MONA staff feed the machine every morning, which convert it to poo at the end, which is then collected in a glass tray. This is Cloaca Professional, by Wim Delvoye.
Among the other pieces, there is a tunnel which reacts to the people moving through it with thunderous noise, a machine that collects your heartbeat and a heavily converted pinball machine. I’ve said machine a lot, but there’s a lot of them in MONA. As there is plenty of “old art”, there are several Ancient Egyptian coffins and mummies, relics and remnants from antiquity.
The entirety of MONA has that TARDIS-like quality, feeling bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, especially as the largest floor of the gallery resides on the bottom floor. A main feature throughout the structure is a wall of sandstone that extends from the top to the bottom of the gallery, which was cut from the hill. The best way to visit it is to go all the way to the bottom, have some liquid courage at the bar and then make your way through the levels and various rooms, until you emerge a little dazed and confused to the surface.
Its an intense ride. I tried to capture as much as I could in the gallery. These photos were the pick. They aren’t in any particular order.