Hobart

In November I spent an extra-long weekend in Hobart with my mother and sister.

MONA
Museum of Old and New Art. Hard to describe if you haven’t heard of it, so quoting from the website: Mona is one man’s ‘megaphone’ as he put it at the outset: and what he wants to say almost invariably revolves around the place of art and creativity within the definition of humanity. I found it fascinating, frustrating, annoying, amazing, pretentious… Certainly not bland. There is just so much stuff that it is overwhelming – something you could say about many galleries and museums and places of entertainment, but here sometimes excess seems to be an end in itself. I think it is quite deliberate about unsettling people. At times I felt crassly manipulated, it was a bit obvious. At other times I wasn’t aware of it, but pretty sure it was still happening. Some very clever and very professional people at work here.

I think my hard-won and still limited knowledge of art and art history was both put to the test and at times shown to be irrelevant. And it’s pretty human not to enjoy that feeling. So I’ll focus here on the spots where interests overlapped.

Julia Krause-Harder
(detail)

There were a number of dinosaurs by Julia Krause-Harder. I didn’t get a good photo, but the detail shows what I responded to – weaving using cable ties, plastic and other probably repurposed materials. Here some of the frustration comes in. MONA doesn’t have labels on walls. They provide lots of information on “the O” – iOS only. In many ways great when you’re there – they have devices for you to carry around if you don’t worship at that particular temple. Not so good for me, as usually I take a photo of the wall info whenever I photograph an artwork, making it easy to refer back. So incomplete information here.

bit.fall, 2001–06, Julius Popp

A waterfall, with words derived from news and other feeds, processed through some clever algorithm then fed into mechanism like a hybrid of inkjet printer and sprinkler system. Fascinating to watch and wonder about the news stories the words are derived from. Some words I thought I could place from current events, others remain a mystery.

MONA is very low profile from the outside. Most of it is down within the cliff of a peninsula on the Derwent River. Many large public buildings have a big atrium opening out above you after a narrow or relatively low entry point, to inspire a sense of awe and wonder in those entering. MONA does it upside down – you enter an apparently single storied building, lots of light, the shop and cafe, then descend into the depths by spiral stairs or lift where the subterranean atrium is indeed awe-inspiring. Julius Popp’s work dominates that space, and as you work your way up through the galleries you come to it again and again at different levels.

Judith Scott – detail


Judith Scott

Wandering rather listlessly through a labyrinth of small rooms and corridors, this caught the corner of my eye and I raced (I’m hoping there was no pushing involved, but couldn’t swear to it). Unmistakable. Fascinating and complex and engrossing and for me a moment of peace and absorption in a strident environment. I’ve written in this blog many times about Scott’s work – just do a search top right. No more to say and words aren’t the point.

Fat Car, 2006 Erwin Wurm

One of the more popular exhibits I suspect, Fat Car is just that. A sleek sportscar has been modified and is now corpulent, with rolls of shiny duco flab. Even the black leather seats bulge. A neat critique of our culture.

Brett Whitely

Tucked away in a corner was a mass of “traditional” artworks – oil on canvas type things. The photo above shows a very large and I think overall lovely work by Brett Whitely. He’s not one of my favourite artists – the self promotion is a bit thick and I start feeling suffocated. Here it comes as a disembodied hand and, from memory, eyeball (not a believer in subtlety), but there’s so much else I can still breathe and think my own thoughts.

The MONA excess can just be glimpsed at the edges of the photo above. Lots by Sidney Nolan and various others hung salon style. (There was a huge, HUGE work by Nolan in another area.)

Altogether a challenging and interesting day. I’d love to go back by myself, immerse and challenge myself.

In and around Hobart
We spent some time walking around Hobart. Salamanca Markets have a very good name, and we spent a hot and sunny Saturday there. Mawson’s Huts Replica Museum brought the temperature down. The museum is a replica of the huts built in 1911 in Cape Denison, Antarctica. The central living area has been reproduced with great detail, the bunks, stove, tables used by the men of the expedition. Fascinating.

At the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery we focused on historical exhibitions. First was Our land: parrawa, parrawa! Go away!, a sobering and painful telling of the story of the invasion of the island and the Black War. Just one level down in the historic Bond Store building was Our changing land: Creating Tasmania. On its website the museum invites the visitor to “investigate the making of Tasmania, and explore how the state has become a place of environmental change and complexities, of creativity and of a particular social identity”. It was hard to enter the spirit of that, seeing all the domestic treasures accumulated by the colonists, all the time hearing through the ceiling above the audio of the Black War exhibition.

One of the major reasons for visiting Hobart was to seek out places visited by a great-great… uncle who came out to Hobart in the early 1840s (mum’s research is at https://megshistory.wordpress.com/john-chester-jervis/). A decade after the period of the Black War, but the visit to the Museum certainly gave some perspective and context to the opportunities young John Chester Jervis was seeking.

Richmond Bridge

A short drive out from Hobart took us to Richmond and the bridge which was constructed by convict labour 1823-1825 – the oldest stone span bridge in Australia. To complete the sunny picture a couple of boys in red came running down to fish and be reflected in the waters, while ducks thoughtfully paddled their way into the shot.

While in Richmond we also visited the Old Hobart Town model village, again showing a period a bit before John Chester’s arrival. Together with a drive-by of the only Hobart address we know related to him (the house where he was married, long since over-built), this rounded out our “research”.

Tahune AirWalk

Tahune AirWalk
View of cantilever section, taken from early part of the walk


Huon River from Tahune AirWalk

A longer day trip was to Tahune AirWalk, a suspended walkway above the forest canopy next to the Huon River. It was another hot day and somewhat airless in the valley, but beautiful in the dappled light of the trees. The Huon River is dark, its waters coloured by tannins. Birds and insects flew around us. Even the length of the walk – across the river and through the trees, then 600 metres of the walkway itself – was pretty much perfect for our party. There are other adventures available here, and you could stay longer or overnight if you wish, but we were happy and satisfied without.

Mount Wellington
Finally, given this has turned into a family travel blog rather than strictly art and creative practice (although I’ll maintain each part of life feeds and supports the other), a snapshot from the top of Mount Wellington

Top of Mount Wellington

2 Responses to “Hobart”


  1. 1 Jane Bodnaruk December 28, 2017 at 5:42 am

    Last time I was in Hobart they were doing the install for the latest exhibition, so I didn’t get to see Judith Scott’s work. But I did visit the Cascades Womens Factory – it has been energised by a dedicated group of volunteers to raise funds, and is now administered by Port Arthur Trust. A must visit (for next time) as it is now a very subtle and artistic site.


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