Hobart is considerably quieter outside of the Dark Mofo festival, however MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) still continues to provide inspiring, challenging and thought-provoking work all year round.
What is truly astounding about MONA is the unique experience created by the architecture.The underground building immediately brings you into an immersive experience where you are completely absorbed by the art. While the museum was a work of art in itself, with hundreds of different pieces on exhibition, here is an examination of some of the most interesting works within the museum.
The ZERO Collection includes remnants of Dark Mofo and the The Unmanned films are a must-see. Entering the museum, you are guided through a dark and eerie corridor with the unique sounds of young Friedrich Kurzweil’s narration, as the words bleed into each other. The subtitles only add to the confusion rather than deciphering his rambling, with lines like ‘thisstoryoffriedrichkurzweiliwanttotellitmyselfhowhelivedinthisroomand’. Friedrich claims to be concurrently the father and the son of Ray Kurzeil, who was a key promoter of technological immortality and trans-humanism; methods through which Friedrich supposedly brings his deceased father back to life. His unique narration style is based on the writing of feral German child Kasper Hauser, who caused controversy in the early 1800s when he claimed he spent his childhood in total darkness and isolation. Filmed at a microscopic level, shots of blades cutting through steel demonstrate both an incision and a fold, which become the axiom for the rest of Fabien Giraud and Raphaël Siboni’s The Unmanne
Echoes of Freidrich’s voice still ring around the remainder of The Unmanned installations, with a haunting sort of beauty. The eight pieces narrate the history of computation in reverse chronological order. Another stand out is The Outlawed, a black and white film that beautifully depicts the story of brilliant mathematician and inventor of the modern computer, Alan Turing. After being convicted of homosexuality and subject to hormonal treatment, he embarked on a raft to study the morphogenesis of marine organisms. The Outlawed is one that makes you stop dead in your track and watch mesmerised.
Another incredible piece of modern art is 20:50 by Richard Wilson. Hailed as “one of the masterpieces of the modern age” by the ABC, despite its simplicity, it is an incredible showcase of how art can speak. The black reflective motor oil blends effortlessly with MONA’s impressive underground architecture to create a mind-bending illusion, so you lose track of where the walls begin and end, and get the sense you’ve been transported to an upside down world of abstract art. What is incredible about this work is that the reflection remains on the surface, and yet in a lake or a body of water you know that below the surface lives another world, yet here the reflection can only be on the surface. This world is engulfing and mesmerising.
An infamous piece of MONA’s general collection that is not to be overlooked is Cunts and Other Conversations by Greg Taylor. Completely stripping away all sexualisation from the vagina, Taylor has made a statement piece about the female body. It’s raw, honest and very beautiful. Inspiration for the piece came from Taylor accidentally destroying a full body sculpture, with nothing but the vagina remaining intact. Realising that it in itself was a work of art, Taylor set out to create a further 77 life-size porcelain sculptures of women’s vaginas. He also noted the importance of this work in de-stigmatising women’s bodies, encouraging greater body positivity, and allowing them to speak about their own vaginas freely, which this work absolutely does.
A key piece that was commissioned for the opening of MONA in 2011, When My Heart Stops Beating by Patrick Hall is a two-part cabinet with records that open with different voices of Hall’s friends, family and acquaintances saying “I love you” as well as various short, poetic stories projected on to the the records as they open. The piece was originally commissioned to feature in MONA’s Sex and Death gallery - which no longer exists - but Hall was specifically trying to appeal to both sex and death through this piece. This work takes a painful look at love, speaking to the companionable intimacies that crop up over a lifetime, and considering the different types of love, not simply romantic. Each of the boxes shares a small story of its own that connects deeply to all aspects of love. It is a piece that you could lose yourself in for hours.
This is only a small selection of the works on display at MONA, but the eclectic, one-of-a-kind museum invites any number of visits and interpretations.