Saturday, 18 January 2014

2013 Trip to Tasmania - Day 2 - MONA and Moorilla

That day our first destination was going to please my wife rather than me - we were going to MONA, Museum of Old and New Art. It was mostly known for N rather than for O, and I, being no fan of modern visual arts, expected to spend our time there with "Yes, darling" mask on my face. However, I was delighted to discover that the museum owner thoughtfully placed it in a vineyard. In a real vineyard with a real cellar door! I din't know if I would have stomach for wine after New Art so I set the priorities accordingly - first, the winery, then everything else.

The place was called Moorilla. A modern building, sleek design and wine bottles with stylish black-and-white labels lined up on the counter. At that time I didn't realise that they would, almost literally, give me a taste of what to expect in the museum. In cellar doors I usually try to buy either good or unusual wines - they had both. I'll tell you about the latter - it was 2011 Muse Cabernet Sauvignon with smoke and capsicum flavours. Capsicum was explained by early harvest (which later appeared to be a distinctive feature of southern Tasmanian vineyards.) I wondered where the smoke came from - if it wasn't a bushfire then they should be careful not to hire smokers to harvest grapes. When I mentioned it to the girl who conducted the tasting, that young rosy-cheeked lady said that the wine's smokiness reminded her of Laphroaig... I looked at her with new interest. My wife once told me that she became a centre of attention and almost gravitational attraction for all nearby males when she sauntered in a shopping centre carrying a bottle of Johnny Walker's Blue Label. Obviously, there is something about proximity of women and whisky, geographically or even in a sentence, that arouses men's interest. 

Having finished with cellar door business we headed to MONA.
That visit turned out to be a pleasant surprise in a sense that expecting absolutely no positive impressions I actually got some. Firstly, the building - it was an underground bunker with rock-lined walls and fancy floor plans. I can't say that I am fond of bunkers but the solution was unusual enough to be entertaining.

Secondly, presentation - objects, images and videos could be found on the floor, on walls, in peep holes and on the ceiling. I felt like a protagonist of a video adventure game who had to click all strange-looking objects in case they were more interesting than they appeared.

Clicking takes us into IT realm, so it's the right time to introduce the third source of my entertainment - The O. Don't get me wrong - I don't start giggling at the sight of that letter. In fact, it's a name of an iPod-based tour guide complete with location sensors, like/hate buttons for each object and a downloadable history of a person's tour. The O detected my position and displayed a list of objects which were close to me. For each art object I could see a description, interviews with the author and, in case of multimedia installations, listen to the sound stream synchronised with the presentation. MONA declared that they used The O to replace traditional wall labels. That was a gross understatement - it raised a visitor's experience to a whole new level. I will always remember MONA as Museum of the O and New Art.

Finally, and most shockingly, it was the art itself. I found myself amused by more than one creation of my contemporaries. Just to mention some:
  • III Crossing by Junebum Park.
    It was a short and funny video which was filmed from above and projected on the floor. I called it A Hand of God. Imagine you were Gulliver who had to ensure that  Lilliputians safely crossed a street at crossroads with traffic lights. Little people were bustling by your feet and you used your hand to guide them.
  • Fat Car by Erwin Wurm.
    Built on Porsche Carrera chassis, this piece immediately evoked a flurry of different meanings of the word "fat" and I thought it was an ironic visual demonstration of the word play. The annotation on The O actually gave a different explanation of the author's idea, but I liked my interpretation better. Explaining a piece of art is like explaining a joke - sheer murder.
  • Pattern of Perception by Ruth Schnell.
    I called that installation Elfin Letters. Looking at it directly I saw just a bright line. Being naturally patient, I spent quite some time staring at it. Finally I got bored and, feeling a bit silly after gazing significantly at such an inconsequential object, I turned my eyes away. STOP. What was that? I definitely saw a letter. I looked back - just the same old bright line. Hmm... I looked away again and saw a couple of letters this time. The letters behaved just like elves - one could only see them with a corner of an eye, never directly. The O offered some lame explanation of that phenomenon which contained words "nystagmus", "saccades" and "fovea" and was written by the museum founder who honestly admitted that he had no idea what he was talking about. As one professor used to say, incomprehensible but exciting.

Now that I mentioned the founder, I want to give him credit for the aforementioned experiences. I didn't know anything about David Walsh when I bought a T-shirt with his quote. From what I read about him later he didn't appear to be a nice person. However, the man managed to find a few pieces of modern art which really entertained me, and after such feat I believe his name deserves being advertised on my chest, although he made me pay for it. I guess this is how people become billionaires.

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