MONA and Hobart

Madame Leaving MONA

Madame Leaving MONA

Monday 10th August 2015: Last Wednesday we flew to Hobart, mostly to visit MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art. De had many TOIL (time off in lieu) days to work off, and a bunch of money from overtime. So we blew a bundle. What fun. First real holiday we’ve had in yonks.

 It’s been almost twenty years since last we were in Hobart. Then, it felt very much like Bathurst. It has grown up, and partly I’d say, due to MONA.

 There was good food back then, there was George Haddad’s Ali Akbar and the late Chris Jackman’s Mit Zitrone, and the Battery Point Brasserie where I remember a memorable meal but forget the name of the cook, who later became a food writer.

 But generally there was a slightly down at heel feeling to the place, nice but wouldn’t want to stay. Boy has it changed. MONA first.

 I described it on Facebook as an exhilarating intoxicating baffling inspiring infuriating and exhausting experience. And it was and is, for me anyway. Entry into the low lit cavern between walls blasted out of sandstone is itself discombobulating. The iPhone like device you’re given to navigate takes a little while to adjust to. There is a background smell of faeces from Wim Delvoye’s Cloaca Professional AKA the shitting machine which we saw deliver the goods, to De’s semi-disgust: “It’s a boy thing” she said “And a children’s thing” said the charming and attractive attendant (charming and attractive describes all the female contacts we had in Hobart).

Wim Delvoye’s Cloaca Professional. The end of the process of digestion.

Wim Delvoye’s Cloaca Professional. The end of the process of digestion.

 There was much to love and to be moved by. First and foremost for me was Okabe and Minato’s Hiroshima in Tasmania. Here’s the ‘Art Wank’ (the MONA rerm for explicatory text):

‘Hiroshima in Tasmania – The Archive for the Future is the first permanent installation by Masao Okabe and Chihiro Minato. It is based on a work called Is There A Future For Our Past? The Dark Face of the Light, shown at the Japanese Pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennale.

‘The work comprises stone remains from the Ujina railway station platform in Hiroshima. The station was built in 1894 during the Chino-Japanese War,* and used as a military station until it was destroyed by the atomic bomb of 1945. The remains were removed in 2002.
‘Masao Okabe worked at the site for nine years to make more than four thousand frottages from the stones. Local newspaper reports from that time, as well as plants taken from the site and drawings made with the soil, are also on display. These are traces of a place doubly lost: by war, and by the redevelopment of the city.But the work to keep the memory continues.

‘Make a frottage with the stones and the artists will archive it, use it as part of their answer to the question: is there a future for our past?

The day we went it was the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima which, among other things, reminded me that four months after I was born, hell was unleashed. We were invited to do our own rubbings, and we did. And it was a wonderful meditation on a hideous event. The Americans trialling their latest shiny killing toy.

 And then there was the remarkable Anselm Kiefer – he seems to follow us around or maybe he’s just everywhere – the massive nature of his work, the massive themes. In this one, a giant bookshelf of leaden books is rained down upon by shards of glass. This works called Starfall is about the universe, the Kabbalistic breaking of the vessels…and more. Another piece worthy of meditation.

Kiefer's Starfall, a not very good shot which gives no impression of its massive gravity

Kiefer’s Starfall, a not very good shot which gives no impression of its massive gravity

 Then from there to 72 plaster casts of cunts, Herman Nitsch’s Six Day Play, Sidney Nolan’s snake…on and on into the valley of death and sex they ventured.

 If you do go to this wondrous cavern of earthly and unearthly delights, wander aimlessly, sit a lot and, as Jane Wilson advised (and we had already divined) people watch. The excitable Sri Lankan family who followed us about at the beginning gave much pleasure.

 Back in Hobart – you must go to MONA by ferry – we discovered the Glasshouse a superb cocktail bar in the ferry wharf where our cocktails were made by a charming and attentive mixologist with the memorable Christian name Kafka (Kakfa on the Derwent shore), and Franklin a terrific ‘hipster’ restaurant, a bar at the Mill where good jazz can be hear, the Maritime Museum where I saw, for the first time, the process of harpooning and rendering down a whale.

Kafka's Negroni and Bloody Mary at The Glasshouse

Kafka’s Negroni and Bloody Mary at The Glasshouse

Hobart, we love you. Madame was musing over moving there. Sure, it’s cold but it’s cold and dry. And I’m happier being cold than hot. As our taxi driver on the way out said “mate, sell your house in Sydney for a squillion, and come down here and buy a nice little place on Seven Mile Beach and leave the rest in the bank. You’ll be laughing.”

 But as Graham Latham said of Adelaide, but what will you do tomorrow?

Jazz at The Mill, fine double bass player and Django guitar duet. Le Club Hot in Le Hobart chilly with several glasses of Stoney Creek shiraz

Jazz at The Mill, fine double bass player and Django guitar duet. Le Club Hot in Le Hobart chilly with several glasses of Stoney Creek shiraz



2 thoughts on “MONA and Hobart

  1. Delighted you have discovered the charms of my adopted hometown, John. I took a great leap of faith and abandoned Sydney for Hobart 25 years ago and have never regretted it.

    There’s more to life here than MONA but it certainly has given the town some fizz. I’ve been 9 times now and love the continuous challenge to mind and eye. Good for the soul.

    PS By the way, I think you may have credited Sydney Nolan’s massive work to John Olsen.

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