The museum from across the Derwent. Courtesy MONA.
The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart has become the second-most visited attraction in Tasmania, after the capital’s Salamanca Markets but out-competing the state’s glorious national parks. There may be a lesson here for Alice in thinking about the development of an Aboriginal cultural centre of national standing.
Tourism Tasmania’s visitor survey for the year ending June 2015 reported over one million visitors to the state, of whom one third (more than 300,000) visited MONA. These visitors spent an average of 10 nights on their Tasmanian holiday, and over $700 million dollars. Five percent of them said that the visit to MONA had influenced their decision to visit Tasmania.
The cultural and economic impact of the unique museum, established by David Walsh who made his fortune from gambling, is widely acknowledged. Interestingly, before it even opened its doors, it began building its profile with the MONA Festival of Music and Art – MOFO for short, a deliberately bold acronym for an event that sets out to break ground.
MOFO by day. Photo by Joshua Santospirito.
This year’s MOFO has just concluded and included in its eclectic line-up was Alice Springs author CRAIG SAN ROQUE, in a performance drawn from the graphic novel, The Long Weekend in Alice Springs, winner of 2014’s Chief Minister’s NT Literary Award. At MOFO San Roque provided live narration to an animation created by JOSHUA SANTOSPIRITO, who was also on stage on guitar.
Alice Springs News Online asked San Roque for his impressions, of the venue and way that the Alice story was received:-
The museum is a subterranean architectural marvel, cut deep into sandstone and banked along the Derwent River edge like an old Sumerian palace, a ziggurat with water views.
Composed around an old Italian vineyard bought by David Walsh and sustained with millions from his own deep eccentric pocket, MONA is a kind of dream come true, sustaining culture and economy; and long may it live. Or maybe move to Alice Springs?
The January festival gathered specially selected artists from all around the world, putting them together into unique and gracious combinations.
The lineup included the brash and bizarre Flaming Lips rock group from the USA, the elegant and comical HERMES ensemble from Belgium, Norway’s ‘Apocalypse Girl’, Jenny Hval, Tony Buck, drummer from The Necks, three masterful Beckett Plays from Adelaide, Kate Miller-Heidke and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Evelyn Glennie, miraculous Scottish percussionist, Hailu Mergia, the Ethiopian jazz musician – a whole range of over 200 edgy performers and somewhere in this Josh and I found a place, thanks to Brian Ritchie’s far reaching curatorial imagination.
MONA helped us stay afloat for a week, performing The Long Weekend In Alice Springs as the opener to the Hitchcock silent film, The Lodger, at the Hobart Odeon and then integrated into the MONA cinema along with Stephen Page’s Indigenous dance film, Spear.
We mostly concentrated on the parts that explore the notion that the stories under the ground – altjerre – influence the people and the mood of the town, that is “Sites do things to people”. It seemed to touch a nerve and Josh’s editing of the images into a 15-minute animation was precise and masterful. (Photos above and at left by Pippa Mott.)
With him playing guitar and me narrating in measured tomes, it was seen by 900 people over the week, drawing many comments of appreciation. Many people were moved, even speechless after this glimpse into the inner life of Alice, so carefully told. One very elegant man described its austere and challenging story as nonetheless “gentle and insightful”. Janet Holmes a Court was among the graciously enthusiastic and bought a signed copy.
By the way, the graphic novel is now into its third reprint, having sold over 1,500 copies – something of a miracle in Australian self-publishing. Copies are available locally through our wonderfully surviving bookshop, Red Kangaroo in Todd Mall.
Josh has since created another comic, Swallows, which was launched at the Alice Springs writers festival in 2015. It tells the story of the Santospirito family as they migrate from Italy to Carlton in Melbourne.
And now he and I are collaborating on another, Sydney/Purgatorio, a dreamlike murder mystery, a many-layered history set in Woolloomoolloo and Kings Cross and modelled on Dante’s Purgatory. Josh reckons it will take years to complete.
Meanwhile, we think other festivals could take MOFO’s lead and book The Long Weekend …
Below: Josh (left) and Craig during a performance. Photo by Alvyn Williams.