JR: You are the first museum to acquire one of Wim Delvoye’s Cloaca machines which,
once permanently installed, will be fed by the perpetually rotting carcasses of Jannis Kounellis’ piece Untitled (1998) [Delvoye’s Cloaca is a digestive machine that turns food into feces. To run succesfully the Cloaca is regularly fed organic material such as meat and vegetables]. Apart from the absurdist take on the possibility of sustainable art collections there seems to be a perverseness in owning this combination of works and installing them in a cave at the bottom of the world. What’s your take on this? Are these pieces symbolic of your collecting philosophy?
DW: I didn’t make this connection, and it’s not important to me. In saying that, I do think a lot of the shit we find ourselves in has arisen because of our capacity to compartmentalize. We wouldn’t balls up the atmosphere if our contributions to it had immediate and observable consequences. No one would smoke if each cigarette was a poker machine. Three (un)lucky strikes and you’re out.
JR: When I was reading through your collection list I noticed an unfamiliar term used repeatedly. What are monanisms?
DW: I wrote a definition for the book, viz: monanism [m oh-nuh-niz-uhm] – noun.
1. obsessive activity characterized by an inability to discriminate between normative public behavior and displays of immorality, alternating self-loathing and egoism.
2. a behavioral disorder which, when observed by a representative member of a population (for example the Australian) elicits the epithet ‘wanker.’ Origin 2010; by prothesis from onanism.
JR: You have a work by the Austrian collective Gelitin that many museums would find difficult to manage. Can you tell me more about this?
DW: Gelitin’s work Locus Focus stems from an exhibition I saw in Paris. The Gelitin crew,
amongst a range of lunatic presentations, had mocked up a toilet in which, by dint of mirrors, one could see one’s own arse. This seemed to sit dead center in the anti-comparmentalization theme I am peddling. Making it work took some serious engineering — it’s hard to keep the mirrors clean. The problem has apparently been solved by smarter and more dedicated folk than me.
JR: I have read quotes from you proclaiming your lack of interest in other people’s views of your project. Reading between the lines here I can see you have an interest in this idea of uncompartmentalizing things, in breaking down categories. These two things seem to go hand in hand, as the art world, art historians and museums in particular, cannot operate without compartmentalizing things — it makes them anxious. Is your ability to rupture existing cultural and historical categories the primary aim of MONA, and is this position seen as some kind of risk?
DW: I have to say I don’t care what others think. They think I’m crazy. Some categories are appropriate, no amount of appreciation of the basic laws of physics will enable one to
generalize and understand chemistry. Most generalizations come from extrapolation from what one knows. If there is a primary aim it’s to show that primary aims are fallacious, motives are fluid. I just did some stuff and here it is (nearly). The motives come now, when somebody asks me. I tend to think that motives are mostly retrofitted. I have no clear plan for MONA; I suspect that very few of us have any clear plan for anything. Demonstrating that I have no clear plan is my one definitive purpose. If you plant a garden, an observer might conclude that your purpose is feeding yourself, or creating beauty. You may just be avoiding your wife or just passing time. Doing stuff. I don’t like gardening.
Jarrod Rawlins is a writer based in Melbourne, Australia. MONA Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart (Tasmania) will open to the public on January 21, 2011.