I grew up in an “artistic” household. My mother is a textile artist. When I was in Primary School my Mum went back to university to study Art Education. My younger sister once drew a family portrait: herself, her Dad and me. Mum wasn’t in it because she was at uni. I think that hurt Mum a little. At age 12 I was allowed to make the decision which High School I would attend. I’d been offered several scholarships: an academic extension program, a language program, a music program, visual arts program. I chose to attend the visual arts program because I couldn’t draw and I’d grown up to appreciate that creation and consumption of arts were a reason to live. Five years later I fell off the bandwagon and enrolled in Medical School. By the first day of Third Year, watching the pathologist lecture us on clinical and cellular definitions of inflammation, I literally thought to myself, “What am I doing here?”
I really enjoyed the variety of works at MONA. Some were fascinating, like the intricate laser-cut metal sculptures outside. Some were a little challenging (I really wasn’t looking forward to an entire hallway of plaster-cast labia). Some were immersive and resonated with what I was after at the time, like a room-within-a-room-within-a-hallway lined by words in binary and severely lit black walls. There was an exhibit of retrospective Gilbert & George works. I never really enjoyed any of their works, when I first came across them in High School. I still don’t, but it was interesting to watch for a moment a documentary about their lives and processes. A very lifelike seated male figure, facing out over a mezzanine turned out to be an actual live performer (his tattooed skin having been paid for to be preserved after his death). A lot of the works were similarly themed, gore, guts, shit, genitals and easily challenging. A few were able to transcend their initial off-putting reaction to make me pause and think, rather than roll my eyes, massage my aching lower back and wonder where the cafe was.
My favourite part of the gallery might not be an artwork, a narrow cylindrical hallway between exhibits, with sound from speakers underfoot appearing to emerge from the cement walls. Just like at any winery, where Dan and I will pontificate our own wankery (this wine is reminiscent of a lizard running across a bitumen road in the NorthWest…) we started to appreciate the abstract in the every day; Dan pointed to the fraying carpet on the stair: this work explores the decay of life. I almost took it too far and burst into an occupied toilet, to exclaim how lifelike the installation was, informed by Duchamp of course.
The iPhone devices that replaced signs adjacent to the works (what a brilliant idea – no distraction of text to dictate what to think about the work – just observe the work itself) had several options for information:
- Summary. It’s concise.
- Some thought bubble text.
- Art wank. What to expect.
- Gonzo. Hilarious anecdotes.
- Something with headphones. Perhaps I should’ve listened to instructions.
I wish I’d saved my tour.