I have wanted to go to the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) ever since it opened about a year ago. The new museum is on the Derwent River at Berriedale, ten kilometres northwest of Hobart's city centre. I usually enjoy going to art galleries and museums and I had heard this museum was unique.
The collection is extraordinary. The number of pieces seems beyond counting. The museum is there because of one man, David Walsh who is a multi-millionaire. It is his private art collection and the largest of its kind in Australia.
The words friends use to describe their visits to MONA include fabulous, confronting, amazing and uncongenial. My 82-year-old mother said,
There are so many adjectives to describe it.
Monanisms is the name of the permanent collection and the museum's own book. There are permanent, evolving and changing exhibitions over three floors. Visitors receive an oPod (The O). It provides information on the works and can record and email what you view at the end of your tour.
MONA has installations, paintings, sculptures, skins, photographs, videos, pictures, casts and carvings. There are many other creations and materials. There are also sound rooms, movie theaters and many smaller rooms within rooms. Some of the art dates back thousands of years, other art is modern. The materials used seem to include just about everything from melted cigarette lighters to cast bronze, to wax and metals, stones and canvas, paper and polystyrene.
Many types of art
There is a machine the size of a room called Cloaca Professional. It is a mixed media installation designed as a digestive system. There are times for feeding and defecating, smells and all.
There is also an interactive euthanasia simulation device. A person sits on a lounge chair and a computer and syringe responds, giving feedback on the decisions made on the way to death.
One installation I did enjoy and thought amazing was a machine called Bit.Fall. It is an intermittent waterfall where the water droplets form different words for a few seconds as they fall. The words are chosen from Google searches.
In an interview published in the Monanisms book, the artist Julius Popp says the work is about
how fragile information is. The Bit.Fall is made of a computer, electronic devices, a pump, magnetic valves and stainless steel and water.
One group of 12 pictures I did not enjoy was of dead mice. They were placed in various positions and named according to the Christian references to Christ's crucifixion. Some mice looked as if they had barium powder in their intestines, had been x-rayed and then photographed. Some were in dissection position others were not.
Another art piece looked like a nice box of chocolates, but was not. The Morgue Stories: New York and Moscow 2000 – 05 were chocolate casts made from wounds to anonymous bodies in morgues. In other works, there were sexual acts and genitalia. These included multiple hanging plaster casts.
If visiting MONA by ferry an alternate pick-up or drop-off point must be organised for persons who are unable to use stairs. The usual docking point has 99 steps between the museum entry and ferry stop. The access on and off the ferry is only suitable for some mobility aids. The arched ramp is narrow and has gaps.
The MONA ROMA bus is not wheelchair accessible. Some local metro buses are accessible but phone an hour before to check. The metro bus stop is at the road entrance to the museum. There is a long driveway from the front up to the top of a hill.
Arriving by car, there are ramps and easy access down to the museum. Entry to the museum is free for Tasmanian residents but $20 ($10 concession) for others. Once inside the museum, there are elevators, ramps, and plenty of room. There is also an accessible toilet.
The museum sits in an area of excavated sandstone on the river. The building and location are beautiful. There are many words to explain the art inside. I found it disturbing and I keep asking people what they thought. If you have been what words would you use?