POST Inhabitation: MONA

The segment where we talk to employees, visitors, and passers by at iconic local buildings

March 3, 2015



Male sommelier, thirties, visiting from Perth.

We drove here. I would have liked to have taken the ferry, because I hear the approach to the building is quite magnificent from the water… From outside, it’s an imposing building, and of course, the colour – it stands out from a long way away. I get excited about architecture, and I’m just so impressed with the use of raw materials – it’s finished in an unfinished way, that’s what I find fascinating. Take a look at the wall behind you, it has the machine marks in the stone still. Almost like the inside of a quarry. The wall itself, the stone that it’s made out of – just the coloration – is fantastic. The fact that the stairs still have the manufacturer’s mark, “steel”on them, and normally it would be painted over. It really works quite well together. I love the fact that the oxidisation of a lot of the materials contributes to the whole feel of the place. I’m really getting into it – that’s without all the sex and violence in this building, there is quite a lot of that!

It works really well (as a gallery space). I love the use of acoustics. Obviously there’s been some custom installations that David Walsh has commissioned, like the sound tunnel…that’s quite a fantastic use of architecture and sound. The materials, the fact that it’s tubular, and the way the sound works in there, it’s quite magnificent. And just the space, there’s lots of tiny little nooks and crannies, I love the way that it almost deceives you to a certain point. You think that you’ve seen all there is in one area, then you walk around just a tiny little corner, and it opens up to another whole big area again, so it’s quite deftly conceived and constructed.

It’s very exciting. Very exciting. I wouldn’t change anything. I think there’s been a lot of time, effort, planning and money that has gone into the current format, and I think that they’ve left nothing to chance. Every tiny possible detail has been perfected, and I wouldn’t change it, I really enjoy it for what it is right now.

Female employee, forties

I love it. The different levels are fantastic. The 250 million year old Triassic sandstone is the most wonderful feature. Love the polished cement or whatever it’s called, and on (level) B2, it’s all wood, and it’s all Jarrah from Western Australia, and it’s really quite old, I think from Fremantle woolsheds – I just love that.

The steel – corten steel – I love the ins and outs of that Escher-esque stairwell. I think people are really genuinely blown away by the place, too – some people get actually a little claustrophobic, they’re used to windows, and in fact, working here sometimes in certain areas can make you feel a bit claustrophobic, because of the nature of the rooms, with each new exhibition that’s put up, there are different spaces, and some feel much bigger and larger, and some are small, so luckily you do transition from space to space throughout the day, but you do tend to need the sunlight sometimes. A breath of fresh air for me is going from the very, very dark, areas in the Theatre of the World exhibition, all that B3 area through the sound tunnel, which is a marvellous thing, and then out to the reference library, which is the roundhouse, to the Kiefer Pavilion. The light, the beautiful Hiroshima piece, the whole thing is just fantastic, there are many juxtapositions in the place.

For me, it’s more about what art I would like to see and what I wouldn’t – some I could get rid of right now! No, I think the space deals with the art, and they’re sensitive to building spaces for the art, or deconstruction or reconstruction. It’s definitely a visitors’ domain. As a visitor, I would just love it.

Employee, mid-twenties.

The gallery spaces have all got really different atmospheres, all the different sections, and all of the visitors seem to react differently depending what the space is like, so some of the darker areas they approach more cautiously. It’s kind of fun to watch their reactions as they enter new, very odd spaces – I found that myself, when I started working here. It still hasn’t worn off… you still get that odd sort of feeling moving into each different space, and you can definitely see it on all of the visitors’ faces as well. That’s one of the most interesting things about it: all of the surprises that you get walking around each corner.

What would I do to improve it? It’s a very personal collection, it’s a very personal space to David Walsh, so it wouldn’t make sense to offer suggestions, because everything is as he wants it. You’re trying to appreciate something that someone else has invented, I mean, he doesn’t owe any of the visitors anything, it’s just here for them to look at if they want to.

Family from the Gold Coast

Father: It feels like it’s been carved out of the hillside, which is wonderful. It’s just not an environment you’re in very often, so it’s very different, it’s not something you experience. I feel like I’m almost wandering around some burrow underground, if you like. I know the spaces are bigger than a burrow, but a giant burrow. It’s great. And I particularly love looking at the sandstone. It’s beautiful.

Mother: Generally you think of museums as being painted walls, and I guess having a particular design about them, whereas this could lead to anything.

Female education consultant, and male retired accountant/couples counsellor, visiting from Cheshire UK.

Woman: It’s very quirky. The space has been well thought-out in terms of the cliff. Obviously it has been built into the cliff, which is interesting. The fact that they’re all very different spaces makes it very interesting. Presumably a lot of the spaces have been designed for some of the things on show – I’m not sure which came first…the art or the architecture. We just happened upon (this space) and then thought “these chairs look very comfortable, we’ll sit down”. And we were then going to tell people that we were not part of the exhibition if they asked!

Man: In terms of museums we’ve been to, this is not one of the best for showing art, because it’s got too many different bits in places. If I was designing a museum, it wouldn’t be like this. It is very interesting, but not the best way of showing art. It’s good to have this kind of corner to rest in, but you just come across it by mistake.

Woman: It’s very much a case of “you make of it what you want.” I think sometimes a little more direction is required; we’re not all capable of thinking abstractly as we’re expected to.

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