We are going to MONA today – the Museum of Old and New Art. A ferry will deliver us hence. The first boat leaves at 9:30 and the next at 11. Let’s take it slow; after breakfast I want (need) to get a haircut. The two of us will then meet at the ferry terminal for the eleven o’clock. I walk to a barbershop on Liverpool Street and am given the works. I had been shaggy and ill-kempt, but now I am crisp and dignified, the very personification of Old and New Art.
Ali comes strolling down the esplanade. I have tickets in my hand, and we board the ferry, sparing no minutes. The 25-minute trip up the wide Derwent River offers breezes and mountainsides and a gargantuan zinc refinery. It’s a brilliant day, sun and clouds and dazzle on the river. We disembark at what seems to be an island and ascend a long staircase, at the top of which are many terraces dotted with strange artifacts and potentially irreconcilable choices.
Lovely vistas of the river and the hills open everywhere, but, hey look, over there’s a trampoline that will ring a pair of huge bells if bounced on hard enough and over THERE is 70% life-size cement mixer made of a delicate filigree of ¼” corten steel. It’s transparent and ephemeral and gimmick-y. An incomprehensible site map only confuses matters more. We are on an un-urgent mission to find Cloaca, a mechanical digestive tract that the two of us had seen on its visit to the New Museum in the early 90s. Whoa. Smell that? Yeah, gross. This is the reek of every human digestive process. The young woman guard sitting just outside the exhibit appears keenly aware of her pitiable occupation. “Dad, the old Cloaca didn’t smell so bad.” “Yeah, I guess they finally got it right.”
Despite the beauty of the day and splendors of the building, I’m beginning to feel like I’m at the mercy of an asshole – a man with infinite resources, but no critical sense and no sense of humor. We wander through tunnels and vast underground spaces. The conceptual art feels lame and sexual art is limp. The work on display is art simply because somebody has bought it and said so, not because it’s beautiful or resonates with meaning. Pfeh. Ali takes great pleasure in how pissy I’ve become. Or says she does. Give me the Justins any day.
The Henry Jones Art Hotel is precious in much the same way. Henry Jones was a self-made marmalade magnate and in this building they made his IXL-brand jams. This had been one of his factories. Our rooms are in the restored jam factory section of the building, richly paneled with pyramidal ceilings. My bathroom was designed by someone with no knowledge of or experience with the elemental nature of water. The shower and sink just spew everywhere. No matter. We score a terrific Indian meal.