MONA lights up the dark side to tell culture war stories
State Growth Minister Matthew Groom with David Walsh, Aboriginal art historian Greg Lehmann and Leigh Carmichael. Picture: Luke Bowden.
Not content with creating Tasmania’s most-visited tourist attraction and the state’s most popular arts festivals, MONA founder David Walsh is behind a plan to transform a former Hobart industrial site into a $2 billion development.
The centrepiece of the 9.2ha Macquarie Point site will be a reconciliation park commemorating the colonial warfare that scars Tasmania’s history.
“We’re going to push for this despite knowing we’re white fellas treading on black fella graves,’’ the eccentric millionaire gambler said. “We aren’t doing this to pacify or mollify, we’re doing it because we believe in it and we’re trying to find a way through.”
Leigh Carmichael, director of Walsh’s Dark Mofo festival, said Macquarie Point was “an industrial wasteland in one of the best locations in the city which presents the biggest development opportunity in Tasmania’s history”.
Carmichael said Macquarie Point development plans released 18 months ago had failed to find favour and a year ago the team from the Museum of Old and New Art was invited to come up with suggestions for developing the public spaces.
“It was a plan with no heart and soul, so we decided to go rogue with an alternative vision for the entire precinct which is gaining traction with stakeholders,” Carmichael said.
“There is now 18 months to two years work needed to push this forward as a business case,” he said.
As a colonial war memorial, the MONA team proposes a 650m x 75m art park with a major fire and light installation dedicated to commemorating 40,000 years of continuous culture in Tasmania.
Historian Henry Reynolds praised the idea, which is not yet funded. “The past has always haunted Tasmania (but) reconciliation begins with remembering,” Reynolds said.
The MONA consortium wants Macquarie point to be as significant as Wurundjeri Way in Melbourne and Sydney’s Bennelong Point and Barangaroo.
Mick Dodson, a Yawuru man from Western Australia, has endorsed the idea. “For too long we have ignored our frontier wars, there has been a whitewashing of this history,” Mr Dodson said.
Carmichael didn’t expect the memorial would have universal appeal. “Trying to find a compromise is impossible but we believe we should do something because nothing has ever been done,” he said. “We’re trying to set the course of the biggest commercial development opportunity in Tasmania’s history.’’