2019 Tas MONA
Hobart’s Most Successful School Drop-out ever
David Walsh and his
Museum of Old and New Art
MONA is his megaphone through which David expresses his thoughts, emotions and humour to enlightening and entertaining, not to say alarming effect (I’m thinking of William Delvoye’s bubbling and pongy four stomach digestive system in the photo, sadly we missed the feeding and poop removal show) for the fortunate visitor.
In the photos of the mother and her little girl infront of the vast sandstone wall there are fine jets of water that travel down from the bar above with the bright lights on it and by a magical feat of engineering they form perfect words that appear to be telling a message, maybe the news or some other significant comment. A mixture of the beautiful and the real and the little girl was entranced, so were we briefly.
In his ever changing exploration of human existence, from the vagina shaped bowls in the Source Restaurant to the wrought iron cement mixer on its articulated low loader outside, from a cocktail called Ocean made with the world’s best vodka and sipped through a caviar straw to the Moo Brew Roulette where a fellow gambler (David made his immodest fortune playing cards) runs a one in eight chance of getting a mouldy old Fosters out of the beer can vending machine or preferably one of his own Moo Brew range, including a quaffable Stout, our creator examines and explores and stretches the boundaries of human existence. Although undiagnosed he believes he has Aspergers syndrome, a giant of a gift in his case from which humanity is taken on a whirlwind mind tour. The journey is by no means uncomfortable if one opens up and absorbs the new information, is prepared to be touched and moved and enjoy the effect on the senses both from the museum and the gastronomic and alcoholic delights.
In building the museum David’s men ground down into the honey/pink velvet Triassic Sandstone that is a feature of Tasmania and it was bliss to wander through the garden and over the tennis court where he loves to play once he has his home back to himself to the entrance and then descend into the cool, gently lit bowels of Hobart away from the searing heat outside and mad, mad, burning world outside. He recommends a two day visit and I agree, especially with the numerous bars and restaurants on site some of which stay open late. This place lit up for the night would be a wonderful place to socialise and explore.
I like to explore a different take on reality and one certainly gets plenty of examples of that here. The British colonies of Australia and Tasmania are by some seen as Britain’s Gulags, just as we learned about in The Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn and as are gradually being revealed in China. I didn'’ know that H.G.Wells gained his inspiration for ‘The War of The Worlds’ from Britain’s decimation of indigenous Tasmanians on their island home.
You can see the Void Bar where we languished on a Georgian Chaise Longue supping Sav and Merlot before embarking on our museum experience; well there is also the Source I have mentioned, plus the Moorilla Wine Bar where one can lounge about on bean bags squashing the grass and getting slowly softened by his own wines watching ‘Chickens having sex in the shrubbery’ unquote from the Beginner’s Guide, plus the Faro Bar and Restaurant where art meets share plates and you have a medium chance of sighting God because apparently he likes the vegetarian dishes.
The modest café is right next to the shop and has fab views of the Derwent but when we were there it seemed to be the snooze area with some of the numerous chairs filled with unconscious visitors sobering up after their cultural and gastronomic overdose before the drive home and hoping their kids would be reasonably good while they slept. There is also a Heavy Metal Kitchen or BBQ which is so vast it is an open room of flame and quite frightening for the faint-hearted. There Vince Trim the chef is ‘resolutely dedicated to the art of burning stuff just right’.
There is also the cellar door which a worth a visit in itself because God is there craning his neck to look at the 26 foot painting some ‘clever clogs put on the damn ceiling’ and because of the estate grown small batch wines, salty nibbles to keep you drinking and lots of natural light so you can read the labels through your blurred vision. ‘True/false. If you drink a glass of the dregs from the spittoon you get 2% discount.’ It doesn’t really matter by the time you’ve tried everything and made some ‘foolish decisions with your savings’, does it.
I thought of Jane in Jilliby when I saw the two chameleons embroidery, she would be quite capable of creating something similar and I thought the presence of the beautifully intricate byzantine pottery showed the healthy eclecticism of David’s taste that spans human experience through time. In fact his dedication and the uniqueness of his ever changing collection deserves its own self-appointed school name, ‘Monanism’ because even though he is not the creator of the works, he is ensuring they are seen by millions from all over the globe and these are works and ideas that are new and some futuristic like the map of AI that I included just for you and the globular glass room designed for relaxing!
Remember Sidney Nolan from Adelaide Art Gallery and his take on Eliza Fraser of ‘Fraser’ Island? Well he is here too, with his vast creation, the largest modernist sculpture in Aussie comprising 1620 mini-windows of faces, flowers and birds which, if you half close your eyes and view from a distance reveals a snake/serpent side-winding through its entirety just as an element of the sinful meanders through all of us. It is open to interpretation of course, some believe the Rainbow Serpent is Creation. Cool. David lives with his artist partner, Kirsha Kaechele in the flat above this exhibit and can view it through windows in the floor.
The more I read the info we have on unconventional and avant-garde MONA the more I whimsically plan future visits that we will not have time to enjoy unfortunately.
If you’d like to learn more about David Walsh you’ll enjoy Richard Flanagan’s article in the February 2013 edition of The Monthly, entitled ‘At Home with David Walsh: The Gambler. I found it through Google and the website is www.themonthly.com.au The information on his gambling career in the article is truly fascinating. Mona costs $12 million a year to run and makes only $4 million, but then as a professional gambler that doesn’t matter too much to him, his creation is there for a host of other reasons including an outlet for his thoughts, a magnificent home, an alternative activity to occupy his fertile mind, an experimental civic amenity etc etc.