Travel

Ice on the beach near the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon in southeast Iceland.

Travel Thoughts

Once again my thoughts have turned to travel. I think it’s the end of daylight saving that’s brought it on. Whereas last week I was still arriving home in daylight, it’s now well and truly dark by the time I walk in the door. That means only one thing: winter is on the way.

I’m not averse the cold, as lots of photographs on this site attest. In fact, I really love snow, and a year ago this week I was visiting Iceland where I experienced four seasons in one day. What started off as a bright sunny day turned into a fairly heavy snowstorm on the beach.

In contrast, winter in Sydney is very mild, and I shouldn’t complain. But there’s something about the long stretch from April until the end of July that causes me to become a little grumpy, and a little reclusive and make me want to head somewhere a little further north.

I’m heading to China for a couple of weeks in May, and so hopefully that will help. Deep down, though, I’d like to do something in the cold heart depth of July.

The wunderlust hasn’t been helped by the fact a close colleague is now counting down the days to her three months of long service leave. To make matters worse, she’s actually going to Sweden at the end of July. To the far north of Sweden, in fact, in what looks like an incredibly beautiful area, to attend a wedding of another colleague of ours. I’ve been invited to the wedding also, and at the moment, I’m erring on the side of financial caution, though I might assess my finances after China, and you never know, as the wedding is just days before Stockholm Pride. Hmmm…

NBN Art

Totally Wired

“It’s a by-product of the NBN”, I was told by the woman running Lime Designs, an arts/crafts gift store at Salamanca Place. When I asked her what she was weaving the small basket with, she told me she had literally hundreds, if not thousands of kilometres of telephone wire at her home. The wire was one of the by-products of the roll-out of the National Broadband Network. As the wire was replaced by optic fibre, it was being discarded, and she was one of the eager people willing to make something with it.

Sue and I spent the day sight-seeing around Hobart, starting off looking at some of the galleries in the centre of Hobart, and having lunch at the Cascade Brewery, ahead of going on “Louisa’s Walk”, currently voted on Trip Advisor the best tourist attraction in Hobart. I think that assessment is probably a little over the top, as Hobart has much to offer, but it’s definitely pretty good.

Louisa's Walk

Louisa’s Walk

“Louisa’s Walk” takes the idea of the history walking tour up a notch. Instead of walking around Hobart and pointing at things and recounting facts about them in a fairly stock standard way, the tour takes the form of simple street theatre to recount the story of just one woman who came to Tasmania as a convict. As we chatted afterwards, the male actor told us it was the idea of his mother and her partner who were also semi-professional actors around Hobart who had the idea of creating some sustainable work for actors who would otherwise find it hard to make a living in a city of its size.

And why street theatre? One very obvious reason is there’s not a lot to see at the Female Factory, what was once home to up to 5,000 female convicts. Indeed, the historical records at the space document it was only recently the buildings were “restored”, having previously been used as goods yards, and even as a tennis court for a number of years. Unlike similar convict buildings here in Sydney, or even the male equivalent, Port Arthur in Tasmania, there’s really only the facade that remains.

After a return to our hotel for a little relaxation, we spent the evening at Sing A Long Sound of Music, an event organised by Tasmanian Gay & Lesbian Pride. As the name applies, we were all encouraged to sing a long and to interact the much-loved film. As both Sue and I love the film, it was a perfect way to finish up the day. Great songs, a terrific story, lots of laughter.

Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart

MONA

Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart

Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart

Ever since it opened there’s been a lot of hype about MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art.

I guess a lot of it has to do with the story of how it came to be, as the passion/play-thing of David Walsh who made his fortune as a professional gambler. A lot of it also has to do with the often provocative subject matter of the art. “Most of the work is about sex”, a friend of a friend joked. And then of course you have what’s possibly the best known work, “Cloaca”, the infamous “poo-making machine”.

“Don’t worry, he’s just burping and farting”, the gallery assistant told me, as I recoiled from the smell of “Cloaca”. “I was expecting to be a little grossed out”, I told him in reply, “I just wasn’t expecting the smells”. Although memorable, there’s a lot more to MONA than “Cloaca”. Indeed, the work I spent most of my time viewing was a wonderful installation piece by an artist from Turkey.

In a large room, there were maybe 200 television sets all showing different videos, and in front of each television, there was an old couch or armchair where you could sit down and watch a simple video of someone talking about their life story. The one I found most interesting was that of a young man talking about how he had ended up in prison after a series of violent attacks, including a murder. You could literally spend a week at MONA just watching the videos in this one work.

Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart

Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart

But I only had a day, so I did my best to look around and enjoy as much as I could. Another favourite from my day at MONA included an installation work featuring thirty different people on television screens simultaneously, though individually, featuring people singing songs by Madonna.

A lot of the work is “challenging”. In particular, there’s a large painting of a transgender person which focusses very much on the female genitals, and there’s a piece by Juan Davila (one of my favourite Australian artists) which portrays gay sex in a pretty graphic way. These are the works which would many would find very difficult, and which prompted Sue to note “There’s a lot of children here, which is surprising given the nature of a lot of the works”.

But for me? I absolutely loved MONA, and would absolutely love to return.