Resting on the cliff face of the Berriedale peninsula is a single story glass building with a tennis court and trampoline at the entrance. As I walked through the automatic glass doors to reception I was overcome with excitement. I knew I was in for a treat.
Needless to say, I had just entered a lair. As I walked down the spiral staircase and into the cave below I felt a little nostalgic. It was as though I had seen this all before. And indeed I had. MONA was the epitome of a villain’s lair from a James Bond movie. It screamed Dr Julius No from Dr No, (1962) and Ernst Stavro Blofeld from You Only Live Twice, (1967).
At the bottom of the stairs we were welcomed by a jazz piano and accompanied by a very soulful female voice. The main entrance was a grand open room with a bar at one end and the museum at the other. Martini, shakin’ not stirred crossed my mind.
The unique collection of art that is MONA is spread out across 3 levels of the underground fortress. I have visited many museums across the world but none have wowed me like MONA. It is the structure itself that stood out to me as an ominous and immersive installation playing on all your senses. As I walked through each level of the museum my mind was overwhelmed with the array of artworks from art collector David Walsh (and part-time James Bond villain).
Each piece shocked, wowed and challenged you. The collection is not for the faint hearted. It is a collection of old and new works that as a whole keep you guessing. It is where modernism meets postmodernism and there beyond.
The bottom floor was a collection of science based instruments expressing the patterns of light and weather. It was as though you were back on that school excursion to the Science Museum in Canberra. The exhibition entitled Field Lines by Cameron Robins showcased photographs, drawings, videos, installations and sculptures that captured those moments in nature, which visually represented pockets of lights exploding across the room.
On level two is an experimental exhibition, Hound in the Hunt: Optical Aids in Art by Tim Vermeer. The artist believes that using a ‘mirror’ at precisely the right angle a painter can paint a photo-realistic piece of art. Personally, if I wanted a photo-realistic artwork I would just use a camera.
Perhaps confusing to many is the layout of Walsh’s evolving exhibition entitled Monanism (2011 – ). Pieces of the exhibition are scattered throughout the three main levels and explode even still into the grounds. All pieces pose questions and some are harder to look at then others.
For example, I have never been exposed to so much female genitalia in my whole life and having visited The Wall Of C*#ts on level two I can now say I have seen all types of vaginas in all their glorious forms.
After about 4 hours of exploring Mr. Walsh’s lair of the weird and wonderful we ventured back to the surface to discover a beautiful sunset and explore my two favourite pieces of the collection James Turrell’s Amarna and the trampoline with bells.
Not entirely sure if the trampoline is part of the collection or is simply their for amusement but boy oh boy was it fun to jump on. The bells chimmed at every jump and the bigger the jump the louder they got.
Surrounding the island of MONA was a beautiful and rich sunset which lit up the Amarna structure by James Turrell. An open-aired ceiling was lit with striking shades of purple.
The MONA was beyond my expectations. I did not read too much into it before the day as I wanted to be surprised. And surprised I was. I am an art lover and most of all I love exploring a place or thing that can challenge me.
MONA is challenging and for that very reason has received some criticism in the past but before you judge please take time to read up on the museum as it is not simply just a place that holds art it is an experience.