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Tunnels to nowhere

Tunnels to nowhere - MONA tunnels

Millions of dollars spent on tunnels that serve no practical purpose? Tunnels inspired by art? That’s quirky, off-beat and outrageous. That’s Tasmanian. 

Or to be specific: that’s MONA.

When David Walsh dug deep into the sandstone of Hobart’s northern suburbs to build his ‘subversive adult Disneyland’ at MONA, the world changed forever. Tasmania suddenly became cool.

He has now dug even deeper into that sandstone, spending $27 million to create a labyrinth of tunnels, further cementing Tasmania’s reputation as a beacon of creativity.

The tunnel network has been years in planning and was unveiled to the public earlier this month.

Its deep dark voids are filled with confronting art and take participants on a journey to no particular place, but with the feeling of a "religious processional".

As David Walsh explains: “I liked the idea of approaching heaven from below and forcing our visitors to be part of a procession by traversing a tunnel to nowhere.”

Subterranean shock
Tunnels to nowhere - White House

Tunnels to nowhere - White House

This vast subterranean excavation is another milestone in MONA’s evolution. Another landmark in the museum’s decade long history.

Given the name Siloam, this new tunnel network leads people on an intense emotional journey as they encounter disturbing art within the dark voids.

A gleaming ghost-like building springs from the darkness. White House, by Ai Weiwei, is formed from the ‘bones’ of an ancient Chinese home dating to the Qing Dynasty – the chilling ruins of the past.

Further on, senses are blasted by the 230 speakers of Christopher Townsend’s Requiem for Vermin, which is described as the world’s largest multi-channel sonic work.

In another underground chamber MONA Confessional by Oliver Beer, dares visitors to eavesdrop on religious tainted conversations.

But, the centrepiece of this tunnel labyrinth is Alfredo Jaar’s The Divine Comedy – an immersive journey into heaven, hell and purgatory that is based on Dante’s epic 14th century poem.

“People should feel fear, remorse for what we have done to our planet; and they should feel happy and privileged that they are alive and we’re human beings who have a heart that beats,” Jaar has said.

Siloam inspiration
Tunnels to nowhere - SIloam

Tunnels to nowhere - SIloam

The name Siloam is a reference to the underground water channels built in the City of David, which was the ancient site of Jerusalem.

“The original Siloam was one of the first tunnels to be constructed from both ends,” David Walsh says. “We dug our version of Siloam to connect two existing areas of the museum, filled it with art and made it greater than the sum of its parts.”

But Siloam also embodies the unique MONA spirit.

These tunnels to nowhere that ‘no one wanted, and take you somewhere you didn’t want to go,’ are like nothing else in the world.  

They are also perfectly at home in Tasmania, which like MONA and its tunnels, is unlike anywhere else in the world.

Images courtesy of MONA

22 June 2019, Edition 206

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Tasmania’s Stories Edition 206

Tunnels to nowhere - SIloam

Over the past two years I’ve spent a lot of time in Tasmania. I’m honoured to be here, learning how to be Tasmanian.

27 June 2019, Edition 206

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