At the MONA in Tasmania

On a recent trip to Australia, I visited the best ever museum: the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), up the river from Hobart, Tasmania. What a ride! And I’m not talking about the ferry we took from Hobart’s Sullivan Cove to the MONA — although that was a great way to start the journey.

Here are a couple of photos of one of my favorite installations, entitled “”.

Untitled installation at the MONA
Untitled installation at the MONA


A closer look at the untitled installation
A closer look at the untitled installation

I was aware of so many simultaneous reactions to this room full of blank white books — undergoing a kind of vertigo of meaning while critiquing a loose headband; contemplating the horror of a zombie library while wondering at the artist’s control in not making a mark in any of the books or shelves or tables; imagining the impact of one red dot while wondering at the impulse to find meaning even in this blank room; acknowledging the urge to make a mark somewhere while mulling over various criticisms of the blank book made within the artist book community; remembering a cartoon from my childhood in which all the musical notes came loose from the staves and fell off the page; thinking about invisible ink, the perils of magnetic media …

And that was just one work of art on the three subterranean floors of the MONA. We stayed all afternoon and didn’t see everything — not even close.

Here were some of the highlights for me:

  • Kryptos” by Brigita Ozolins— winding corridors upon whose walls were a binary code translation of The Epic of Gilgamesh, with ancient cuneiform artifacts  set into the walls at intervals;
  • Pulse” by Rafael Lozano Hemmer — a row of incandescent bulbs (imported from China because the are illegal to buy in Australia), each one blinking at the heart rate of a visitor who stepped up to the monitor and recorded his or her pulse — and then you turn the corner into a room full of the bulbs;
  • “When My Heart Stops Beating” by Patrick Hall — open each of the floor-to-ceiling drawers to read text and hear a recorded “I love you”; it’s indescribable, you just have to be there, but here’s an article about it;
  • A collection of Henry Darger‘s drawings

I could go on. And have, much to the boredom of my friends.

And when it all got to be too much, a bounce on the trampoline outside was the perfect break.

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