Lisa would smile at this MONA: Why you must see Tasmania’s MONA Gallery

mona lisa

It’s carved from a sandstone cliff on the edge of Hobart’s Derwent river. Its owner is a public-spirited mathematical genius whose talent for gambling made him a fortune and gave him the means to build an art gallery like no other.  It’s called MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) gallery and since it opened in January, 2011, it has become Tasmania’s biggest tourist magnet.

After encountering this strange and mysterious place recently, I see why.

To visit MONA is to experience a shift in consciousness without recourse to drugs.  MONA’s surreal, dream-like atmosphere is due to three main things: its design (the gallery’s three levels are all underground), the way in which people must navigate its terrain (with a high-tech gizmo) and the startling nature and placement of its art (the old and the new are juxtaposed in unexpected ways).

On entry, I was given earphones and an iPhone-like gadget with a GPS that tracks your movements through the gallery.  A staff member explained that, as all the art is unlabeled, you must use this device to obtain details about each work (and its artist) as you encounter it.  You may also record whether you like or dislike each exhibit and your opinion is compared with other MONA visitors.

What became apparent as I stepped from the elevator and began exploring MONA’s subterranean depths was the way in which all my senses were engaged – often in confronting ways.  I was especially revolted by an exhibit mimicking the human digestive system – an enormous apparatus occupying an entire room – which smelled, sounded and looked appalling.  My gizmo explained the artist’s idea was to expose the degree to which “all modern art is shit”.  I left the room, took a deep breath and continued on my way.

I found works of mesmerizing beauty.  My favourite was Julius Popp’s Bit.fall.  I stood for ages watching a waterfall of short phrases  – taken from recent news headlines –   that formed in the air, stayed for a second, then dissolved and cascaded to the floor below.  The artist’s intention, explained my navigation device, was to illustrate how we are all awash in information, most of which we struggle to process

Time barely existed as I travelled from floor to floor. At one point, I found myself in a long, dark and narrow tunnel that reminded me of a birth canal and each step I took made sounds that echoed eerily off the walls.

More surprises appeared: Egyptian mummies placed beside sparkling modern art; a white library; a room full of light bulbs flashing to the heartbeats of individual gallery visitors; drawers that speak to you as they are opened.

It all felt as if I’d fallen down the rabbit hole into a psychedelic version of Alice in Wonderland. Its owner, David Walsh, calls MONA “a subversive adult Disneyland” and it certainly took me on a wild ride. Even the toilets are magical.

One thing’s for sure.

I’ll be back.

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Digital Art Retreat

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April Residency: April 15-19, 2015 (this residency is now closed)

TasRes Art and Technology offers a unique residential retreat on Tasmania’s beautiful North West coast for artists, writers, journalists, art curators, researchers, digital film makers, photographers, textile artists, dancers and educators who want to improve their digital design skills to promote their own work and learn how to incorporate cutting-edge digital technology into their art.

TasRes Art and Technology’s digital residential retreat is the first of its kind in Australia. It’s a perfect opportunity for artists, writers and educators to congregate in a beautiful environment and learn about digital skills and how they can be applied to promote their own artwork or for the creation of innovative technology-driven art installations, eBooks, clothing designs, performance art, photography and movie-making.

TasRes Art and Technology retreats are held in the pristine Tasmanian environment and give participants plenty of time and space to reflect. Residents will be encouraged to engage in trans-disciplinary discussions in the production of their work and will be exposed to Tasmania’s inspirational galleries, delicious food and wine and the spectacular light and colour of the landscape by way of excursions and nature walks.

There will also be a focus on Tasmania’s ecological and conservation issues and international links are being forged with like-minded residencies in other countries.

Retreat participants may undertake short courses in Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere and Indesign, all of which are presented by an experienced digital media teacher. Retreat participants may choose to attend only the workshops that interest them and can indicate their preferences on the application form below.

Residents will learn how to promote their work through social media such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and on the TasRes Art & Technology website.

All participants will enjoy the immense benefits of upskilling, creating and relaxing in a dynamic group environment comprised entirely of fellow artists.

Accommodation is at Hawley House which is situated on 400 acres of spectacular countryside in Port Sorrell.

Additionally, this residency includes a qualified yoga teacher to ensure participants have time to unwind and relax with gentle yoga and mindfulness meditation sessions.

Each participant will be asked to contribute the rights to use a piece of work on the TasRes Art & Technology website at retreat’s end, or a written piece edited for publication by Midlifexpress.

Contact Sue or Julianne for details or fill in our expression of interest form below.

Complete and submit form online  registration form.

For further information please refer to our FAQs.