MONA: Where Art meets Sex, Life and Death
There’s no place where Georges Braques‘ quote comes more into life than in Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art, the MONA. As the painter stated: “Art is meant to disturb, science reassures”, David Walsh, founder of the MONA, succeeded in bringing those two fields - art and science – together.
Besides mingling those two together, this extravagant museum clearly confirmed Braques’ view regarding the disturbing nature of art: whether by the tennis court at the museum’s entrance, the proudly exposed “vagina wall” acclaiming femininity in all sizes and shapes or the Cloaca ‘poop machine’ offering its visitors a never-to-forget scatological spectacle.
However, Walsh did not only succeed in reinventing Hobart’s artistic scene, the eccentric gambler also accomplished on an unprecedented scale what many artists and curators strive to achieve: to make viewers “experience” art. Mona has actually given a whole new meaning to “art is in the eye of the beholder” as visitors themselves become part of the artwork and, in a glimpse, become the object of the work’s subject. Examples include the “Pulse room” where artist Lozano Hemmer reflects each visitor’s heartbeat by means of light bulbs. By doing so, he invites visitors to emerge themselves in a space lit by each others’ heart rate, on the rhythm of ephemeral lights’ flashes.
In other words, MONA leaves its visitors a lot of room to reflect upon themselves and critically engage with omnipresent themes such as sex, death or idolatry. With a lot of humor and by means of different videos displayed in her work titled Queen (A portrait of Madonna), African artist Candice Breitz portrays the absurdity of star-adoration. Shameless, she sheds light on our media-driven society, where everyone is encouraged into obsessional fanaticism.
On different occasions, visitors are invited “into” the artwork, such as with James Turrell’s work titled “Beside myself”, where visitors are dragged into an “enlighten” corridor, where the mind is purposely challenged by perceptions of “space” and “void”. As stated by Walsh when discussing Turrell’s works in the museum: ‘Our lighthouse is a testimonial to the power of light as art- not just as a medium for artworks, but as an object’.
Other atypical art objects include humans themselves, more specifically Tim Steiner’s tattooed back, designed by Belgian artist Wim Delvoye and sold to a German art collector for 150.000 euros. As proudly stressed by Steiner, ‘my back is the canvas, I am the temporary frame’. As every work of art, you will find Steiner – for several months in a row – exposed in the Mona, where his half-naked figure naturally blends in with the museum’s unusual scenery. Motionless and mute, Steiner could easily be mistaken for a statue and, in a sense, seems to have given away his life for the sake of art. Speaking about life and death, once Steiner's eternal rest kicks in, he agreed for the skin of his back to be removed and framed. Yet again, this artwork succeeds in questioning the very essence of art and its limits, if any.
All these aspects of the MONA turn this unconventional place into an unrivaled artistic and existential journey, where all visitors, when leaving the premises, have only one thing in mind: to come back.
Open Wednesday - Monday: 10 am - 5 pm
Adult: 28.00 $, Concession: 25.00 $, Under 18: free