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Underground tunnels at Hobart’s MONA challenges visitors

Underground tunnels at Hobart’s MONA challenges visitors
January 5, 2020

Since opening in June last year, the mysterious new $27 million tunnel extension at Hobart's MONA has been taking willing visitors on a journey to ‘no particular place’ before leaving with the feeling of a ‘religious processional’.

Named Siloam, the complex of chambers, gallery spaces and connecting tunnels feature works by leading international Ai Weiwei, Oliver Beer and Christopher Townend with a new commission by Alfredo Jaar its centrepiece.

Jaar's immersive installation The Divine Comedy (2019), is a three-room installation based on Dante's The Divine Comedy: Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso. Visitors enter - 10 at a time - into three pavilions interpreting each of the realms of the 14th-century epic poem. Within they encounter fire and flood in Inferno; hover between life and death with a film by the US artist Joan Jonas in Purgatorio; and, finally, simply exist in the sensory void of Paradiso.

Before visitors enter into the first chamber, they are given a series of content warnings - cautioning about haze, loud noises and extreme heat. They are then strapped into a safety harness and walk into ‘hell’, were, unsurprisingly, they experience the extreme heat and other sensations.

Unveiled by art tycoon and MONA founder David Walsh, the labyrinth of underground tunnels connect the original MONA building with the Pharos wing, which juts out over the water.

Walsh explains “the original Siloam was one of the first tunnels to be constructed from both ends. 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.

“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.”

The project is the latest in a string of MONA-related projects for architects Fender Katsalidis, beginning with the museum itself, the Pharos extension and a proposed hotel and casino. The practice also recently unveiled designs for the first stage of the redevelopment of a part of central Hobart that includes the historic Odeon Theatre as a new ‘cultural precinct’ for Darklab, a MONA subsidiary.

For more information go to mona.net.au/museum/siloam

Images of MONA’s Siloam including the White House (2015) by Ai Weiwei in the Siloam expansion at MONA. Courtesy of Jesse Hunniford/MONA.

Related Articles

23rd May 2019 - Fears that funding for Tasmania’s MONA being used as a ‘political football’

14th December 2018 - MONA ditches ‘offensive’ title to unveil plans for new Motown hotel

27th November 2018 - Proceeds from planned sale of Elizabeth Street Pier to assist MONA vision

21st October 2018 - MONA inspiration for Gold Coast hinterland resort and gallery development

26th June 2018 - Tasmanian Government backs Mona Foma move to Launceston

8th July 2017 - Vision unveiled for expansion of Hobart’s MONA

11th December 2016 - MONA reveals plans for Reconciliation Art Park in Hobart

6th May 2016 - 399,127 visitors attend Andy Warhol and Ai Weiwei exhibition at NGV

15th December 2015 - MONA founder reveals plans for casino and hotel development

24th October 2014 - Mini casino plans for Tasmania’s MONA

27th November 2013 - Study reveals the impact of Public Art Museums


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