* Australian slang for a woman’s genital area.
Everywhere has a Tasmania, even Tasmania. A place that underwrites the jokes and fears of a nation.
For mainland Australia, this is Tasmania, the triangular-shaped island to the south, last stop on the way to the Pole, a place of 12-fingered men and hybrid women; extinct beasts and vanished Aboriginals, including Truganini, the last of her tribes.
Every nation has its Tasmania. Every nation needs its Tasmania.
You might remember a while back I was railing against artists’ statements and wishing for separate museums – museums for art and museums for artists’ statements. Though I didn’t know it at the time a new museum had just come into being granting my wish.
The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart, Tasmania, the arse end of the world – forgive the crudity, MONA affects one’s vocabulary – is a private museum built by a man named David Walsh. It opened in January 2011 and I visited it for the first time a few weeks ago.
Finally, here is a museum of art without artists’ statements: a Museum Of Non-Artists statements (MONA, doubled). No tedious descriptions and explanations on the wall, just the thing itself. And an iPod for each visitor which locates the art nearby and provides little more than the artist’s name, “gonzo” thoughts by Walsh himself, and, here and there, audio clips of curators and artists bickering over the art, including, memorably, a beautifully futile conversation between a curator and the maker of a work titled “150 cunts I have known”, a row of life-sized plaster sculptures of the genitals of 150 female sitters arrayed at eye level in the “low light” section of the museum called the “Catacombs.” (Bravo, Mr Walsh).
The absence of artists’ statements and the other paraphenalia of curation is just one of the reasons why visiting MONA is so invigorating. I felt fresher when I left than when I’d arrived over six hours earlier. Yet give me an hour in any regular museum or gallery and I’m sapped.
To be continued …
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