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.
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.