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Kirsha Kaechele

Kirsha Kaechele lying on a green couch flipping the bird

American artist, curator, and the other half of MONA

‘I can’t do it if it’s ugly. I’m completely uninterested in social work that is not simultaneously aesthetic, and simultaneously an interesting conceptual artwork.’

Kirsha is the First Lady of Mona—the boss’s missus, Mona’s better half, or Mrs. Mona if you prefer. The stiletto-toting Yank, and Tassie local since 2010, enhances our core activity with a series of projects that marry an almost vigilante approach to beauty with outrageous glamour, and specific social outcomes. Kirsha is a colourful counterpart to her august mate, who is less interested in beauty than in taking it apart and understanding how it works. She’s drawn to problems rather than avoiding them—and places transformation at the heart of her work, a lifelong quest to turn flaws into features, shit into gold.

Kirsha was interviewed by Elizabeth Pearce, Mona Research Curator and Senior Writer, in July 2016.

EP: Why are you opening a hacking school?

KK: It seemed like a good evolution of my CA$H 4 GUN$ project. At first I thought it would be fun to do as a conceptual artwork, but I wasn’t serious—it seemed a bit too Black Panthers. Although, now that I say that, I realise that Robert Trivers, the evolutionary biologist who is one of our hacking school’s spiritual guides, actually was a Black Panther. He got excommunicated ‘for his own good’. Anyway, a hacking school sounds dangerous and exciting, and is therefore attractive to at-risk youth. I mean, these guys are literally killing each other and selling crack, so it’s not like they are going to sign up for your feel good, let’s-all-love-one-another self-improvement program. Basically I want to overthrow traditional ideas of what social work looks like—ugly. And what social programs feel like—dorky and boring. It’s tech education disguised as a hacking program—housed in a secret, Dr-Strangelove-meets-James-Bond villain lair.

EP: I am always trying to work out where the line is in your projects between art and social justice.

KK: I can't do it if it's ugly. I'm completely uninterested in social work that is not simultaneously aesthetic, and simultaneously an interesting conceptual artwork. This is important because it impacts what I am able to give… I mean, it’s not really my giving, it’s David’s giving. But the level to which I am prepared to manipulate him into doing what I want is directly tied to how aesthetically rewarding the project is. So if we're going to have a garden program—yeah, okay, I'll get behind a garden program. But I probably won't really start to drive it and expand it to new communities and put all that effort in unless I feel like it's an inspiring, radical reinvention of what a garden program looks like. The basest part of me wants to be at a five-star hotel lapping up luxury treatments at the spa. I can redirect that drive to social work if it becomes art, and if it becomes an engine for societal reinvention...

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  • Muscly human legs in heels underneath a doll house torso with a purple haired dolls head on top.
  • Kirsha and her female entourage
  • Kirsha in front of the Tasmania supreme court through documents in the air whilst being poured champagne by a male servant

    In a recent ruling by the Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, artist and curator Kirsha Kaechele was ordered to allow men entry to the Ladies Lounge, her artwork at Mona. On a recent flight to Milan, Kaechele sat down to discuss the court’s decision and the future of the artwork.

  • Kirsha wearing a yellow dress with some forestry people

    A few years ago, I was invited to do the keynote for the Tasmanian Economic Forum. You’ve got the wrong person, I told them. Of all subjects on earth, economics is the one I know least about. And definitely care least about. One need only begin to say the word, econo … zzzzzzz … and I’m snoozing off. But they insisted: they wanted someone from outside their world, someone fresh, to shake things up. Fine. But I should at least offer something relevant to their forum. So I did some calculations and presented this graph:


  • Male visitor sues Mona over women-only Ladies Lounge

    Gabriella Coslovich • Sydney Morning Herald

    Hobart’s popular Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) could be forced to shut down its women-only Ladies Lounge created by Kirsha Kaechele, wife of museum founder David Walsh, if an anti-discrimination case launched by a male visitor is successful...

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I don’t actually give a fuck about diamonds,

I prefer my husband pay for my social projects.