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Van Diemen's Land 1852.jpg

Well, I have to admit those Tassies are nothing short of enterprising.

One has heard of carrying coals to Newcastle, but some of these guys

are trying to sell loads of sheep poo in plastic bags for five dollars-

and largely failing, from what I could discern from the car window.

I didn’t unwind it to check.

We passed a somnolent vendor who had parked his pick-up filled

to the gunnels with the stuff at the roadside and had hung out a

handwritten sign advertising his wares, in the open sun.  Not too

many takers, but full marks for bright, or something that rhymes

with that adjective, optimism.

For something a little more fragrant-and I don’t mean Jeffrey Archer’s

wife, Mary, do visit the Old Municipal Building in Evandale.  At least it

was open to customers, unlike nearly every other establishment on

the tourist trail, at the height of the season.  The garden outside the

cafe is resplendent with, and perfumed by, cascading Pierre de

Ronsard roses, whose beauty I last witnessed in the original Abbey

Gardens near Tours, where the poet once composed, and perhaps

composted this Eden variety.  Mind you, it was probably before

David Austin perfected the floral breed.

Rosa 'Eden Rose' J1.JPG

When I saw the pick-up was just as laden on our return journey,

I thought its owner could do worse than making a donation of his

unsold goods to the aforementioned garden.  I’m sure the

Romanticae would be appreciative and would bloom even more


In the heat I was tempted to partake of a Golden Gay ice lolly,

but I was unsure of making a politically incorrect request.  Not

that the descendants of Abel Tasman have particular scruples in

respect of language use.  Even the term Tassie apparently refers

to female genitalia.

David Walsh, the evil -??- genius behind MONA, in Hobart (Museum

of Old and New Art) does not mince his words.  He is quite capable

of challenging the untouchables in the art world, such as Damien


The first fact about Damien Hirst is that he is the richest artist who

ever lived.

The second fact is that he doesn’t deserve to be.

The Future of Art - Damien Hirst.jpg

Walsh is not backward about coming forward and has

broken all sorts of taboos, even decorating the walls of

his amazing temple to Art with a line of plaster- well-


Described as presiding over a subversive adult Disneyland,

Walsh exhibits a keen interest in all things excremental,

so, maybe the vendor chappie could pitch up and station

his pick-up in the parking space  irreverently marked: God.

He might be able to shift a few tons, justifying it as a multi-

sensory installation.  After all, the medium has been popular

with Gilbert & George, Chris Ofili and the like.  It might sit –

oops, nearly made a typo- well with the Cloaca Professional

by Wim Delvoye, which literally turns food to faeces before

your twitching nostrils.  I don’t think the fact that the artist

is Belgian has any bearing down on it.

I think most people prefer the other similarly-hued national

export: Leonidas.

Michael Connor of Quadrant commented:

MONA is the art of the exhausted, of a decaying civilisation.

However, I found the building aesthetically stimulating and

Walsh’s statements self-ironic.  Or were they?

He has made remarks such as:

I suspect that our marketing is probably better than our



Now I am the bloody institution.  Now I’m the arbiter of good

taste.  The thing I abhor.

For someone who grew up in the allegedly working class

suburb of Glenorchy, and who beat the casinos at their own

game, Walsh has dug something back into his Tasman soil,

producing a tourist magnet, so I say, Good on you, mate!

If one doesn’t like anything in the museum, there is an

opportunity to vote on the exhibits by expressing approval

or dislike, via an Ipod.

What will Walsh do with the feedback?

W: Take the popular stuff out.

The main exhibition which The Husband and I took in was

Matthew Barney’s River of Fundament, which had connections

to a Norman Mailer novel.

Apparently zombie actors had roamed around Barney’s studio

in New York, which was fitted out like Mailer’s former Brooklyn

home.  The undead spoke dialogue from Mailer, Hemingway,

Whitman, Emerson and WS Burroughs.  There were speeches

on rot, decay, defecation, putrefaction and fermentisation.

No wonder Bjork, his erstwhile partner, has voted with her elfin


Barney referred to descriptions from Ancient Evenings, on waste,

city sewage systems, sanitation and re-cycling plants.

If this is art, then his name would be better represented as

Blarney, some would say.

I wish I had Lady Luck on my side and patronage by the bucket-load

and then I could produce River of Tenements, representing the Clyde

in a frozen stream, with pop-up talking heads rising out of its silted

depths, mouthing philosophical patter by holograms of Billy Connolly,

Keir Hardie, Jimmy Reid and James Kelman, amid abandoned shopping

trolleys.  Mangled cranes would form the entrance arch

I would gild the gates of the old John Brown’s Shipyard, re-named with

a consonantal substitution and would have a video on a loop, recalling

the epic moment in the Seventies, when an encouraging bouquet of

roses arrived at the usurping workers’ entrance, bearing a card from

one of the Beatles and his Japanese companion-in-politics.


They’re from Lenin?! cried an incredulous wee would-be Communist.

Ah thought he wis deid!


Spin the wheel one more time, David, cast the die and pull the

pokie lever one more time, baby, and find me the dosh and I’ll

be right over deluging you with my creative juices.  But first I

have to find a supplier for formaldehyde.  Maybe Damien has

some left over?

Jist Imagine!

And finally a dedication to the successful gambler

who is King of the Tasmanian art world:

Baa baa black sheep

have you any poo?

Yes, sir; yes, sir,

I have a bag or two.

Two for the gardener,

who’ll mix it with leaf mould

and one for that mad alchemist

who’ll turn it to gold.