Tasmania encore: 2014

MONA goes bad!

IMG_2099Headline! Freak out! I have previously expressed my confidence in and delight with Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art. But on our recent trip to Tasmania we went to MONA again and the unthinkable occurred. David Walsh seemed to have lost his touch.

We went. The bottom floor was closed in toto but the upper two floors were still mesmerising. Yves Netzhammer’s giant installation and the welcome return of Nolan’s ‘Snake’ were among the highlights. I also discovered who is singing flat in the Madonna exhibit, and decided it wouldn’t be the same without him.

During a discussion about tickets we got invited back the next night to the opening of the new monster blockbuster — ‘River of Fundament’. The work of the ‘greatest artist in the world today’, or ‘one of the most important artists of our time’ (Nicole Durling from MONA, whose taste I have previously described as impeccable). (Did the ‘possibly’ escape me? I might be being unfair.) Matthew Barney!!! Munich. Beijing. Hobart. 143 crates of material, one casting weighing more than 6 tonnes. Forget Ben Hur. Bigger than just about anything.

And an opening … wooo hooo.

Watching le tout Hobart done up and out and about was worth far more than the price of admission. Special mention to the glittering onesie shorts set. Jack was there (Thompson) and Brian and Rach (Brown and Ward. Come on.) among other luminaries. I don’t know whether that was a bad sign or not. Probably. In the last Monthly David Walsh is quoted as saying, now he just rings up Steven Pinker and says have you got some neurophysiology stuff? And his book’s out. He might have tipped over and gone a bit spack. Or he might just be enjoying the perversity of it all.

‘River of Fundament’ has been growing for decades, longer, from a request by Norman Mailer to turn his worst book ‘Ancient Evenings” into an opera. It is an opera. It is also film described by an art gallery staffer who went to see it as a 6.5 hour marathon (and yes it is) of ‘an artist’s aggressive hatred for his viewing audience.’ That might please David. It would certainly pique his fancy. We didn’t see the film which might provide some sort of entrance to what there was on display in the bowels of Berriedale Point.

What we were left with was (dull)48f813dfb65933c4cbf5df164733e7619bb4d356_1416572568

‘Barney’s three phallus forms, cast in bronze, first appeared during the Khu performance in Detroit in 2010, which is now part of River of Fundament, Act II: when Isis gathers up the scattered physical remains of Osiris, god of the dead, resurrection and Afterlife, in an effort to restore his spirit’s integrity. Dredged from the riverbed in the wreckage of the Crown Imperial, they are a shaft of crystal salt, a muddy twisted root and a silt-encrusted metal rod: here rendered in metal so ‘feathery’ it seems almost organic.’

and (heavy, in literal usage)


‘The physical and iconographic origins of this powerful, immensely heavy (I think The Mercury, VOICE OF TASMANIA, said six plus tonnes) and more than car-sized form, completed just this year, lie in Barney’s great sculpture Djed which was cast on site in Detroit during the live Khu performance in 2010 (now seen in Act II of River of Fundament). Both Djed (too large to be brought to Tasmania) and the present work, Rouge Battery, are part re-embodiments of the Chrysler Crown Imperial that was beaten and ritually torn to pieces in Act I.

and sometimes big (although I quite liked this one. It’s Norman Mailer’s attic where he writes/wrote, upside down. Yeah I know, I know. Obvious.) But really …2dd2f77c0ad084b776387af306f01765861e2ba4_1416590528Excrement, putrifying matter, fighting or copulating bodies, all glisten with moisture. Sulfur is dissolved in urine. Organ pipes bubble. Molten metal flows. Mercury runs across a bathroom floor or falls from the cavities in a murdered car engine. Buffalo blood pours through the attic floor and down Mailer’s apartment walls when Norman III finally dies there. In the exhibition, the phallus forms in Coming Forth by Day [first pic above] seem to ooze into the base of their vitrine; something has drained out of Crown Imperial’s polycaprolactone tomb. The after effects of electrical actions, set solid in sculpture, seem still almost alchemically charged with metamorphic potential. And this great Boat of Ra is cast adrift here with its bronze mooring ropes, almost as far from either Egypt or New York as it is possible to be.

Mmmm obvious. You’ve now seen the highlights. It’s a mash-up of the end of the Detroit car industry, Mailer’s life and book, Ancient Egyptian mythology and the detritus of Barney’s mind. It was never going to be very engaging but without the 6.5 hour experience I’m afraid it’s nothing, just puzzlingly dull and trivial.

And we were left wondering if David had been seduced and violated by celebrity, one of the oldest and saddest stories of all. Or even, horror of horrors, whether he just might be bored.

But let’s be clear. Emphatic. This Emperor has no clothes. And now there’s whole floor of space that needs filling with good stuff. Like before.



IMG_2038So let’s turn to quality. TMAG. Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. It’s been done up, completely re-thought, and it’s terrific. I loved it.IMG_2027

After a few hours you leave it with a very powerful sense of where you are, what it’s about and how it’s been with a very fine art experience thrown in for good measure.IMG_2025Upstairs is one of the two extant versions of Benjamin Duterreau’s ‘The Conciliation’ — George Augustus Robinson rounding up what he thought were the last of the Palawa Tasmanians and doing good by carting them off to Wybalenna on Flinders Island in Bass Strait where almost all of them died.IMG_2041

There is so much that could be said about this: the unintended irony of the title, the dog and the pademelon trading glances, the European obsession with the Palawa method of spear-straightening, the record of shell necklaces. And Robinson with his florid cheeks. A joke figure? It’s hard to read otherwise. But what gets me most is that, just like the other version in Canberra’s National Gallery, the paint is cracked and beginning to peel, mostly from the distinctive grey skin of the Palawa. They’re disappearing in front of our eyes. How appropriate.

Below from right: Woureddy (Truganini’s partner), Truggernana (Truganini), Tanleboueyer

IMG_2170The Bush

We climbed The Mountain up the Ice House track

(That view is in front them and they’re taking a selfie! Ha ho.)IMG_2016

IMG_2020and the scoparia was out. Below the very top it was a blaze of floral colour.IMG_2001

We spent some time on Bruny Island, visible off the coast above. I like the complementary lines in the pic. below of the Neck. So much beauty everywhere.


IMG_2114National Park. Russell Falls falling.IMG_2057We were there to climb Mt Field West, a very rocky traverse of the Rodway Range before the Mt Field plateau. We were going the long way via Tarn Shelf for reasons of scenery. But when we got up the top, it turned out to be for reasons of self-preservation. The wind was strong enough to blow me off the duckboards. The horizontal sleet would come from one direction and then suddenly shift to the opposite. It snowed. This is an effort to take photo of snowing.IMG_2091

Rarely have we encountered so many varied types of precipitation (mostly violent) in so short a time.

And this is how it looked at brief moments. Glorious.IMG_2088

But, we were rebuffed. The track up the Newdegate Pass was a river, the wind noise from the tops sounded like a steam train driven by dervishes, and I’d lost the feeling in my fingers. We turned back. IMG_2095What a place.

The new header pic is the view across the D’Entrecasteaux Channel out our Bruny Island shack window with Hartz Peak in the background.IMG_2158

Labilladiere Peninsula walk: 28 Nov 2014

IMG_2150First, this is a public service rather than the standard gripping entertainment.

After finding an official-looking correction in our Bruny Island rental premises indicating that the Labilladiere walk was not 14 kilometres but 18, and not 5 hours but 7, I spent an hour on the net looking for information about which I could be confident and failing to find it: could have been five hours, or eight; could have been 12 k.s or 28. There’s a lot of cups of tea difference in those figures. As it is, the finger post immediately behind this sign says 5.5 – 6.5 hours rather than what’s here.

The maps were generally execrable. The scale on one suggested about 8 k.s all up. The most common map, on the Island brochure, suggests a mystery gap of about 2 k.s between where the track is supposed to start and ah… where it does start. So this is an effort to provide reasonably accurate up to date information about this very pleasant walk: times, directions and what to expect.

th-1Second (even though his actual patronymic was Houtou), ‘Larbi-yardi-air’. It makes it easier to remember.

Jacques L. (at left) was the naturalist on Bruny (or really Antoine Bruni, below) d‘Entrecasteaux’s voyage to try to establish what had happened to Lapérouse.th (A failure. Authentic remains were subsequently found on an island not far from Vanuatu.) Larbi-yardi-air made a number of major contributions to the collection and description of zoological, botanical and geological specimens novel to Europeans. Tasmania provided a party in this regard.

* * * * *

Despite what the board pictured above says, the walk circumambulating the Peninsula is probably a bit more than 14 k.s but not more than 16; and it took us a bit over six hours with two long breaks, or close to five hours of steady walking. There is, as occasionally advertised, a steep section over Mount Bleak gaining about 130 meters, but it’s short and the track is quite nicely graded.

The rest is the very definition of ‘medium’. If it wasn’t quite as long it would be ‘easy’. Painless exercise in a delightful environment.

While there is water at the camp ground, there is none available on the track.

The track traverses four distinct environments: heathland, very thick bracken, beach walking, and a sandy littoral track through reasonably open grey stringy-bark forest.

The one thing about which there is absolute consensus is that the walk, a circuit, should be done clockwise. I agree, but not emphatically.

IMG_2132On the first north-westerly leg, clockwise does give you an intermittent series of long and attractive views over the beginning of the d‘Entrecasteaux channel, the coastline of the peninsula and the mountains of the southern range including Hartz Peak lowering away over in the background. On the other side direction wouldn’t make much difference.

The track starts at the car park in the Old Jetty camping ground at the very southern end of Bruny Island. (The Jetty served for decades as the access point for getting supplies to Bruny Lighthouse keepers.) Allow at least an hour and quarter for the drive from the ferry dock. And you can actually park at the track entrance in something helpfully called ‘Track car park’.

And if that’s what you want to do, start here.IMG_2151

You walk a couple of hundred metres and are confronted by a choice. You hit a fire trail which will eventually take you almost the whole length of the walk on that side of the peninsula. (There’s a footpad over the hill.) If you’re me, there is some inclination to turn left because you’re a bit turned around by the drive in and you feel a (valid) need to cross the peninsula — and that might be the way.

But it’s not. Turn right. That’s the last unguided directional decision you will need to make for the whole walk.

After 20-30 minutes you will come to a clearly signed option to turn right for the shorter Luggaboine Circuit (about 2.5 hours). This was described by the owner of the Adventure Bay general store as ‘the same, but shorter.’ Your choice.

IMG_2130You’ve been walking through heath, sections of which are well above head height and some of which is waist high with the consequent effects on the view. In late November, and slightly past its best, this still provided a floral wonderland with hundreds of various types of orchids. In the longer views you can trace the course of the track as it wanders up and down over what looks like dune formations. There are two picturesque rocky beaches one of which, Hen and Chicken Rocks, is close to the track. The birdlife was exceptional all the way.

After about an hour and three-quarters, and just past Hen and Chicken Rocks, you will come to Mt Bleak. It took us about 15-20 minutes to get to the top. Views from the top are incidental rather than pronounced — you are still in fairly thick vegetation — but what you can see is lovely.

IMG_2134It is an easy descent from there towards Partridge Island which is appended to the tip of the peninsula. It took us a bit longer than I thought it would and if I’d been patient for another 5 minutes we could have had lunch at Hopwood’s Beach rather than parked on the side of the fire trail. This is after about two and three-quarter hours.

You climb out of the bush onto the beach for 200 or so metres before the signed entry to the trail on the other side. Then it’s about 15-20 minutes through some very dense vegetation with a lot of bracken where the track aperture is about shoulder-wide. I’d already nearly trodden on a two-metre black snake and I was pleased to get out onto Butler’s Beach. Below: this was after it had thinned out considerably.IMG_2137 You’ve turned the corner by now and the track takes you perhaps a bit over a k. on reasonably solid sand with lovely views.IMG_2135

IMG_2140Up off the beach, again well signed — in fact once you actually get there the signage and information are fine. Then a bit less than two hours of trucking through open stringy-bark forest along a gently undulating sandy track (with occasional patches of roots and rocks just to remind you that you’re in Tassie) sticking with the littoral at not much less than footpath pace.IMG_2143IMG_2149About 25 minutes from home, you’ll come to this, the second intersection with the Luggaboine Circuit.

And this is the end. Note the track off the other end of the beach for the light house provisioning.IMG_2148