Updated: Jun 5, 2018
On an overcast bank holiday Thursday a few weeks ago, I finally made it to one of Tasmania’s biggest draws – the tantalising Museum of Old and New Art, or Mona Museum Tasmania for short. My interest in this place was incited way back in the winter, when my boyfriend Kane informed me that he had tickets for “Blacklist”; an event at the festival, Dark Mofo, established by Mona Museum Tasmania and soon to commence in the city and surrounds. Living in Darwin at the time, I tried to hide the great amounts of fomo (fear of missing out) that were quickly inspired when, after Googling, the festival’s curators divulged nothing more about the event than “Listen closely, go hard, open your mouth, close your eyes, sacrifice for the greater mood”. As an arts and humanities graduate used to studying the subversive, the surreal, and subconscious expression, this kind of enigmatic statement about the event’s aims was exactly my cup of tea, and from that moment on, a visit to MONA Museum Tasmania had been on my to-do list.
The museum sits on the edge of the Berridale Peninsula overlooking the River Derwent, across which the Mona Roma ferry travels frequently to escort customers to the gallery doors. The views from the museum’s forecourt are predictably spectacular, yet they only act as a precursor to the intricacy of the museum’s interior design. As I walked in, my eyes were instantly drawn to the set of stairs winding around the glass elevator which descends 17m underground. Each day, it transports its visitors to the cavernous interior lying between 250 million year old sandstone walls; to a subterranean, alternate world fluctuating in the darkness, laden with decadence and calling to mind all that is ‘other’. The heart of the museum hums: the gentle, eerie sound of somebody practising scales on a public piano is combined with the sound of water crashing against the ground in the shape of an arbitrary word (Julius Popp’s Bit.fall) and the disturbing babblings of Paul McCarthy’s character in his performance art piece, The Painter, which plays on repeat. There are few barriers between the works and the visitor, and the opportunity to get close to the museum’s most visceral pieces, while being absorbed by the white noise pressing from all sides creates a truly unique, sensory and sensual experience. And, thanks to the iPod we were provided on arrival which allows you to digitally document each artwork you visit, I can always remind myself of the strange beauty of the wall displaying 75 of Greg Taylor’s now notorious porcelain sculptures, or the assault I felt on my nostrils caused by the mimetic ‘human digestive system’ sculpture. My visit to Mona Museum Tasmania was an all-encompassing event, intensified by the journey home underneath brooding skies on a boat docked by military-clad men, and I am already planning my return to see the Gilbert and George exhibition, open now. While I am even more devastated now that I missed Dark Mofo, I will make every effort to see what summer’s Mona Foma has to offer.
Wagon in Mona museum Tasmania
Though my weekend following my Mona Museum Tasmania visit was to be spent working in the Fluke, the spirit of the bank holiday was maintained by the fact that we held a wedding reception there. The well-rehearsed routines performed to Justin Bieber by the bride and best friends got the bar staff a strange combination of choked and revved up, and we dutifully removed all the champagne flutes from harm’s way when one of the family members developed the courage to breakdance on the bar. Afterwards, we decided we were festive enough to go out on a night out ourselves and we headed to The Grand Poobah for a boogie: a club styled like someone’s living room, often decorated with potted plants and swirling in dry ice. It was also somewhere we returned to a fortnight later to watch Melbourne producer, Roland Tings play. Three music-loving Melbournian siblings who we met in the pub – surprised and impressed to hear he was playing in Tassie – came with us to the event. As we all danced the night away, we were able to inadvertently prove the non-believers that great night life isn’t only available to those that live in the capital cities. The nightlife in Tasmania is booming, and without the lock-out laws typical to Sydney city clubs and bars, I have often found myself dancing until daylight after bar hopping among Salamanca’s neighbouring stylish wine bars. It does seem there is something for everyone, with unpretentious, yet youthful brew pubs flourishing alongside seafarer-style cocktail lounges, ambient whisky cellars, and all-hours watering holes favoured by students. I for one have been spoiled for choice, and while variety is available in most capital cities these days, you’d be hard to come by such welcoming club clientele as you do here in Tasmania.
Truck in Mona museum
Despite it seeming like my weekends have been orientated around serving or consuming hard liquor, it’s certainly not the whole truth. In the first week of November, dressed in objectively ugly, matching fluoro outfits, Kane and I headed to Baskerville Raceway to compete in the Hobart leg of the Australia-wide Raw Challenge, held annually. For anyone that doesn’t know, it is an outdoors obstacle course stretching over approximately 8km, set in Hobart’s case against a farmland backdrop, and featuring hill runs, claustrophobic tunnel crawls, a giant water slide, wall scrambles, monkey bars across iced water and lots and LOTS of mud. The event is organised in heats, with those who want to participate competitively beginning earlier than those who simply want to have the pride of finishing, and want to work in synchronicity with friends. As we stood stretching, stony faced and discussing tactics to win next to a carefree group of colleagues wearing tutus it became clear that our combined, highly competitive nature was not terribly well suited to the social heat we had entered. Nonetheless, we took every bit of pride in “winning”, celebrating with the tearful pride of an Olympic-medal-winning relay team at the finish line! ;) Afterwards, we rewarded ourselves with a delicious homemade veggie burger from the event stand that tasted like a piece of heaven clutched between our frozen fingers before dashing to our car as the rain began to pour, right on cue. If that wasn’t enough exercise for one weekend, the following day we took the drive through Franklin and Huonville leading towards the stunning Southern scenery of Hartz National Park. With a packed lunch worthy of an Antarctic expedition, we trekked to the summit of Hartz Peak, following a TasTrail route that you can find here for yourself http://tastrails.com/hartz-peak/. It was a generally relaxed walk which allowed us to take in views which speak entirely for themselves, with only the final steep climb up a scree slope to the summit pushing us to break a sweat.
Aqua park Tasmania
On the way home, we pulled into Willie Smith’s rustic apple shed set in the Huon Valley, to rehydrate and recuperate with their signature sample paddle of perry and organic cider. We would return here during Beer Lover’s Week: an annual celebration of the pubs, restaurants and venues that give Tasmania its growing, global reputation as an essential destination for those who truly appreciate a few frothies. While the band played Celtic-style music that seemed make every toddler in the place go nuts with excitement, customers savoured the 30 degree heat, enjoying a 10 oz. of award-winning craft beer, including Last Rite’s Pina Colada IPA (brewed in Cambridge, Tassie), to cool down. With one more day off work after our Hartz expedition, three of us took to the road again, this time to cruise alongside the rich Tasmanian wetlands, and of course sample the fine wineries that pepper the route to the famous Freycinet National Park. We reached our final destination of Coles Bay later than expected, after a long conversation with the knowledgeable staff at Milton Vineyard made us feel a sudden, overwhelming thirst that only their sweet and delectable Gewurztraminer could quench. It wasn’t long after this that I left Hobart to meet my friend from the UK in Brisbane, for a glorious holiday from my holiday, this time on the Whitsunday Islands (which you will hear all about soon enough, I’m sure). Now over a month into my stay here, I feel like I am beginning to scratch the surface of Tasmania, even if only slightly. My attempts to say “yes” to every opportunity given to me here are beginning to pay off, and now my excited parents have arrived in the state, I am able to disclose a little knowledge while still experiencing the excitement of having a few touristy treats still to discover. Watch this space!