Tasmania 1 – MONA

If you’ve read this blog much in the past you will know I don’t have much free time. I mostly am at work all day, and then when I’m not at work I’m flopping around whinging about all the studying I have to do for this stupid Masters that seems like it will never finish. James being back from Afghanistan meant I got to see him when I get home from work, complain at him about work, then sit down and study, occasionally looking up to complain about study. For this reason I made sure to get a day off work for the long Cup Weekend (a horrid horse racing holiday we all get) and we booked a trip to Tasmania. My plans were: Go to MONA (the Museum of Old and New Art) and climb some mountains. We did both, with great success.

To get to MONA you take the ferry, MONA ROMA. Riding on a sheep.

First sight of MONA, all red and rusty.

I loved MONA. Sadly both the touring galleries were closed whilst we were there, but we spent a good 4 hours wandering the permanent exhibits. You are provided with an specially programmed iPod Touch upon arrival, which detects which artworks you are close to, and then you can find out all the usual details but also look into its “Art Wank” and “Art Gonzo” categories for additional insights. It also tracks everything you look at so you can save your tour, and then log in to revisit everything virtually — forever. Can you imagine always being able to revisit every museum you’ve ever been to, and having access to photos and information about the things you saw, so you could always research them further, or show them to people? I feel it’s such a thoughtful addition to the museum experience.

My tour – not that it’s as exciting for you guys, given it’s just a screencap.

From the moment you start the tour, down in the basement, the building itself is just so incredibly powerful. I think I took more pictures of the walls carved directly out of the cliff, than of any other feature. All the more impressive in a museum environment where temperature and relative humidity have to be carefully controlled.

I didn’t take many pictures of the artworks inside, but I did love this one, called Kryptos. It’s a small, low-lit concrete maze, with binary strewn on the walls, representing an encoding of a translation of the very old Mesopotamian text, ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’ (yep, stole that from my virtual tour!). It is very atmospheric and slightly spooky.

In the central chamber I went to take a photo of James, and then out of the corner of my eye saw a sinister figure lunging at me from the ceiling and almost had a heart attack. Mirrors.

The only other two that I felt the urge to photograph were ones that I felt a strong link to. This one is a Buddha formed from 8 tons of incense ashes collected from Buddhist temples. The ashes were formed in this aluminium mould:

and then the resulting statue has been gently disintegrating ever since.

The Chinese artist, Zhang Huan, apparently has a gigantic warehouse and many staff whose responsibility it is to sift through all the incense ash they can get, and ship the stuff out around the world to art galleries willing to pay for their own ash Buddhas. I BELIEVE IN CHINESE ART.

The other one I really liked enough to take a photo reminds me of The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke by Richard Dadd. This creepy yet fascinating piece was assembled from “taxidermied hedgehog, wasp nest, rat and hedgehog bones, dried toads, eggshell, crab shell, insects, plant roots”. You obviously can’t see from my photo, but there are tiny fairies made from what appears to be flies legs to me (but I am informed are minute twigs) riding bumble bees and attacking what appears to be everything in sight. It’s called The Fairy Horde and the Hedgehog Host, and my photo is just terrible.

Outside the museum it was glorious and sunny and perfect weather to appreciate the Gothic Chapel.

Inside, the stained glass windows are x-rays of human bodies.

Then we went down to the pier to wait for the ferry and gawp at the landscape. Warning: this is the first of many panoramic views to come. You should be able to click it for a bigger pic.

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