Monday, April 18, 2011


David Walsh, in creating MONA, said he was creating a "subversive adult Disneyland".  Although what's being subverted isn't clear, I gather he wants to deconstruct various traditional expectations of aesthetics, sexuality and morality. I remember visiting the previous museum of antiquities, with it's small carefully labeled exhibits and wondered if Walsh's big project would led to an improved experience.  I expected to be impressed and shocked but was underwhelmed and somewhat annoyed. The smell of pooh (from the 'Cloaca a machine' exhibit) while viewing Nolan's massive 'Snake' was disconcerting.  I was  impressed by the 'Kyptos' installation but surprised by the amateurishness of some of the pieces but this is probably more of a comment on the pathetic state of modern Art and culture then Walsh's ability to choose fine pieces to display.  Some of the pornography was predictably off-putting and often misogynistic.  The lack of explanatory labels was both annoying and confusing, leading me to photograph what I thought was some sort of modern Art installation but could of been light fittings or climate control devices.  However, the lack of labels is also Walsh's most cunning cultural maneuver. People will be temporarily impressed then forget the Mac-truck stuck in the hallway or feel momentarily that they were in some sort of Twin-Peaks-inspired nightmare after some of the exhibits.  But it's this phenomenon represented also by the National Museum in Canberra of confusing or deliberately ambiguous exhibits that's the most morally dangerous thing about MONA.  The presentation, communication and explanation of culture and history is vitally important for a civilisation.  Most of Walsh's exhibits aren't very subversive; for example the Koran with a stone inside is carefully tucked away in a corner on one level (and don't expect to see an exhibition of the Mohammed cartoons any time soon). Clearly it's the overall cultural impact of chaotically displayed and deliberately ambiguous Art work that is most subversive.