Lovers of music and art will travel to the ends of the earth to experience the very best. And that’s exactly where Hobart is. Almost as far as you can get Down Under, the city of Hobart is located in the south of Australia’s island state of Tasmania.
First stop on my art ticket in Hobart is multi-millionaire David Walsh’s Museum of Old and New Art, MONA. Second stop, MONA’s Festival of Music and Art, MONA FOMA (aka MOFO).
Getting to MONA means boarding the camouflaged catamaran Mona Roma ferry and launching into an immersive art experience. We sailed up the River Derwent sitting on sheep (sculptural seats of course), across the deck my friend’s champagne flute balanced on a zinc white cow that was grazing on graffiti.
MONA eventually peeled from a bend in the slow river, a carving in an ancient sandstone cliff. We disembark and climb stairs to the museum, a dramatic combination that has taken many a visitor’s breath away.
MONA is the brain child (or bastard son depending on how you look at it) of David Walsh. This eccentric multi-millionaire made his fortune on a horse-betting system of his own device and subsequently spent a portion of his money buying some grand, often challenging, modern and contemporary art pieces. The $175 million museum was built in 2011 to house his collection and has since firmly set Tasmania on the contemporary-art map.
Once inside, a glass elevator gulps us three levels down into the bowels of the quarry gallery and induces an involuntary shiver. The labyrinthine layers make the dark and mysterious rooms seem almost foreboding.
We follow a shot through red velvet curtains of flesh to Matt Collishaw’s challenging Bullet Hole (a giant, extreme close-up on a wound on a human scalp). There are no printed descriptions, so we were left alone to interpret what we saw.
The sensitive may find the security blanket ‘O’ iPod guide a useful reminder that you are not abandoned in this new world. You can listen to podcast interviews with the artists, or read reviews by David Walsh. The O can also push your already crowded mind to love or hate the art, adding an aural assault to your senses.
At each turn we have less idea what to expect. We watched our raised heartbeats throb overhead in The Pulse Room; jumped on the trampoline and made bells ring out, pealing around the vast emptiness; followed Sidney Nolan’s Snake (an imposing work comprising 1620 paintings) and were shrunken by the enormity of it all.
And then it’s hilariously hard to stomach Wim Delvoye’s Cloaca poo machine… (a machine that processes food and turns it into…well…poo!). The subsequent visit to the loo giving us the pleasure of watching our own bowel movements on a screen.
Resurfacing, I collapsed into a womb-like beanbag on the lawn and devoured delicious local wines and cheese, to aid digestion of an art spectacle that is like no other. MONA is harrowing, compulsive, hilarious and moving. It shows that the line from Egyptian and Neolithic Old Art to New is an unbroken, if fractured continuum.
MONA’s Festivals of Music and Art
MONA FOMA (or MOFO) is MONA’s annual summer Festival of Music and Art. In winter, DARK MOFO is similar, but much colder and darker. A walk down to Hobart’s wharf and the festivals are street party central set beneath massive public art.
MOFO is held in January and the festival hub is at PW1 shed on Princes Wharf on Hobart’s waterfront. There’re so many local and international artists, performers and musicians, it puts you in a head spin. The eclectic mix showcases emerging and established artists, old and new.
At DARK MOFO the Winter Feast is a highlight of any trip to Hobart. Held in June during the Winter Solstice, the atmosphere, fire pits and roaming bands help everyone forget about the cold weather. The mulled wine and cider helps too.
Luminous in the background is the Ferris Wheel of Death that plays a central part in the festival’s performances. The huge festival-goer controlled art installation Articulated Intersect is giant light puppetry that seems to go on forever into the night sky.
At both festivals there are heaps of food and drink stalls showcasing fabulous Tasmanian produce. We stuffed ourselves full with Tasmania’s best cheese (again) and washed it down with the world’s best whisky.
For the young and the restless, limited tickets are available for the famed festival after party, equally brilliantly named Faux Mo.
MOFO 2015 Tickets
A weekend is a perfect amount of time to immerse ourselves in the madness of MONA and MOFO.
Book your ticket for 2015 on the MOFO website; limited pre-sale tickets for Faux Mo. MOFO happens from 15 to 18 January and Dark MOFO happens 12 to 22 June. MOFO 2015 artist line-up includes the Swans, Ben Frost, Amanda Palmer, Zammuto (with Gotye) and more. See you there.
Feature Image: Exxopolis Luminarium – Architects of Air, MONA. Photo by Lamar Francois
Images Courtesy of MONA Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.