A cold front blew in on Monday and we woke up to cold winds (from the Antarctic?) howling outside even before we got out of bed. Not in a rush to go out in the cold and wet weather, we got up late and had a nice breakfast in-doors. Unsure what the weather might do we decided to visit the Sorrell Fruit Farm, a 10 minute drive from our cottage. We are given umbrellas and a plastic box and encouraged to go outside and pick our own strawberries the only berry that is in season at the moment. A little hesitant, I don my raincoat and set off. We have only just started walking up the hill when the rain starts to fall again but by now we have reached the first of our strawberry patches and the taste of the ripe, sweet fruit has enticed me to stay and pick some more. There is nothing like fresh fruit and veggies and in Tassie, everything seems to taste a little fresher and sweeter. We can’t help but taste a few of the fruit as we fill our respective boxes. The sweet juices run down our hands and I contemplate growing my own when we get back to Sydney.
Once our boxes are full, we go back down for a gourmet lunch of fresh salad, spinach pie and vegetarian lasagne. It was absolutely yummy and after learning a little more about the farm and the fact that strawberries are so named because they grow in beds of straw, we get back on the road.
We drive through historic Richmond and head out to the rather nondescript suburb of Berriedale to visit the Museum of New and Old Art (MONA). The museum is the brainchild of multi millionaire gambler David Walsh who has collected both old and new art with his winnings. I am sure there have been many heated debates about what constitutes ‘art’ after people leave this museum. It certainly gives you an insight into the mind of David Walsh! I think of some of the words that might describe the art as well as the building – incredible, amazing, awesome, creepy, weird, gimmicky, thought provoking, bizarre…the list goes on.
The museum is referred to as the Temple of David and houses a collection that some may find to be both disturbing and confronting! The collection which is valued at around $100 million is the largest privately owned collection in Australia. The main focus of the art appears to be sex, death & bodily functions and it forces you to confront things you would rather avoid. There is a machine that mimics the human intestinal system which is fed each day and excretes depending on what the curator fed it! I am not kidding….it is one of the talking points and highlights that people seem to come in search of.
We were rather lost when we first arrived, finding it difficult to even find the entrance of this famous museum. I read later that all this is intentional and the fact you have to walk through a tennis court to get to it is one of David’s idiosyncrasies that in fact annoyed the architect! The museum has been carved out of the ground and you descend 3 stories to its depths to start your tour. Down in the depths is a bar which serves David’s own brew – Moo Brew! A solid 15m sandstone wall reminds you of the excavation carried out to create this museum.
One of the first exhibits that catches my eye is Julius Popps Bit.fall where a sheet of water falls in front of a vertical wall and various words appear and disappear in a bid to remind us of the flood of information we are now bombarded with. Words such as ABC, Tony, victims, mall, inquiry, accident flash by, making us stop and think about our world today. I think the only problem for the curator is the popular appeal of this exhibit!
Then there was Austrian Erwin Wurm’s fat car made specially in red as per David’s instructions. The Porsche – the ultimate symbol of extravagance - has been deformed to resemble a puffy obese car reminding us of the unnecessary consumption occurring in the world around us.
I was also quite taken with the exhibit of a human mind. You can peer inside and have a look at the million bits of information (by way of pieces of fruit, other objects) swirling around. It is a reminder that our conscious mind can only process a very small fraction (about 20 bits of information/sec) compared to the more than 11 million bits that pass through our sub conscious mind. People often talk about a sixth sense or intuition and this exhibit makes us realise the value of information stored in our subconscious from our past experiences and come to grips with the fact that not everything can or should be evaluated based on pure logic!
What strikes me about this museum is how different it is from anything I have seen before. While most museums are just buildings that provide space for their collection, it was David’s collection that inspired much of the design of this building. Sydney Nolan’s 45m long Snake is one such example where an entire wall is taken up by this piece of work. It is a collection of hundreds of individual images that combined highlight the image of a snake reminding us of its significance in dreamtime stories.
The artwork is not displayed in any chronological order but rather appears to be completely random. The walls are devoid of any information and each visitor is given a set of head phones and and iPod type device which gives you access to both audio and written information about each piece. The information you get changes each day and is random, so you may be reading something quite different to the person standing next to you. A novel concept indeed. The museum is quite dark, while the artwork is lit by spotlights. There are rooms within room that surprise and startle you and it is the most innovative building I have seen designed to house works of art. I read that during the opening festivities, there were a pile of dead animals next to the carvery, a reminder to people of where their food comes from!
It is certainly worth a visit if you have an open mind are able to think laterally and feel open to being challenged! If not, I suggest you give it a miss…:) “Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads.” - Erica Jong