Standing outside Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) the first thing that hits you is the smell of manure.
It’s a biting cold day when we disembark from the MONA ferry, push past the crush of tourists, and walk up the imposing steps emerging into, unexpectedly, a tennis court. Straight ahead is a metallic, boxy building that emits a faint fecal order. I enter thinking it is the toilet (perhaps with a sewage leak?) only to find the ticket counter.
Visiting MONA is like peering through the looking glass. Deep down in the museum’s cavernous underbelly—inside that mirrored box building—sits Wim Delvoye’s cloaca machine, otherwise known as “the shit machine.” The Belgium artist’s vast array of whirring tubes and bags mimic the workings of the human digestive system. The apparatus is fed food and produces excrement. Isn’t modern art, Delvoye seems to say, just a load of crap?
The machine is MONA’s most hated piece. But it is also the one visitors spend the most time taking in. It is, at once, magnificent and repulsive. And that is exactly how David Walsh, multimillionaire, professional gambler, and MONA’s founder, likes it.