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Christoph Büchel

A temporary hut sitting in the isolated wilderness. A rainbow is in the distance.

Land of David

Part One
Land of David (Poynduk)
Bathurst Harbour, Southwest National Park, Tasmania
220km south-west of Mona

A 40 sqm two-bedroom pre-fabricated dwelling has been constructed in the Tasmanian Southwest National Park, which is part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The structure is one commonly used for settlement housing in new Israel and Palestine (and by the Chinese movements onto the Tibetan Plateau). The Jewish community refer to them as caravilla. Büchel has positioned this caravilla in the area in which young Melbourne-born Critchley Parker died in 1942 while on a mission to discover a site to relocate the Jewish diaspora. Standing in front of the caravilla is a 4m x 3m billboard advertising ‘Poynduk holiday villas now available at Port Davey’ with a free call 1800 number supplied. The billboard lists Southdale Development as the company responsible for the promotion. ‘Poynduk’ is the Tasmanian Aboriginal name for swan, and is the name Critchley gave to his southern promised land. 

Located twenty minutes by boat (or a day’s walk) from Büchel’s caravilla, a foundation stone for the Southdale Shopping Centre sits at the foot of Bathurst Harbour’s Mount MacKenzie, just metres from the grave of Critchley Parker. The stone is cast from cement purchased in Tel Aviv from Nesher Israel Cement Enterprises, who form part of the supply chain for the production of the West Bank Barrier. This foundation stone is etched (in a gold leaf finish) with the Southdale rising sun logo and the phrase ‘where it all comes together’. The foundation stone contains a time capsule which includes extracts from Critchley Parker’s diary.

Part Two
Land of David (Southdale Shopping Centre)
Various locations, Mona

At the entrance to the Mona site on Main Road, Berriedale, a billboard announces, ‘An exciting new shopping experience is coming soon’. It continues:

Tasmania’s first centre of fashion and article de luxe
Scheduled for completion in early 2015
The Southdale Shopping Centre will include:
Approximately 30 new specialty retailers including premium fashion, cosmetics and luxury goods
An additional 100 car parking spaces
A new accommodation and entertainment complex
Spaces for the community to enjoy

The billboard also features logos of multinational brands including Chanel, Estée Lauder, Calvin Klein, Helena Rubinstein, Victoria’s Secret and Hugo Boss—all companies with relationships to World War II Jewish diaspora (Chanel and Hugo Boss had links to the Nazi party, and Klein and Rubinstein both came from refugee families).

The bus stop on the road in front of Mona displays a promotion for the forthcoming shopping centre and the brands listed above, and the once minimal concrete walls either side of the Mona driveway are mounted with large illuminated Southdale Shopping Centre signage.

On the tennis court outside the museum entrance, a duplicate of the Southwest National Park caravilla sits on the museum rooftop. Next to this, a billboard promotes the new holiday villa development down in the Southwest. (The Poynduk Southdale property development launch, which included anonymous advertising in the local newspaper The Mercury, coincided with the Tasmanian State Government’s call for expressions of interest for new development in this politically controversial area, which itself coincided with the Federal Government’s plan to release parcels of land in the area for logging and development opportunities.) Southdale Shopping Centre banners surround the tennis court and the mirrored entrance to the museum now sports an illuminated Southdale Shopping Centre sign.

Büchel has furnished the Roy Grounds-designed Courtyard House as the entrance to the Southdale Shopping Centre. Non-functioning ATM machines, complete with Büchel-designed graphics scrolling across their screens, sit in the foyer. Above these, a set of posters advertise Wrest Point Casino with the slogan ‘We want you to get lost’, and a poster claiming to be from the Australian Liberal Party shows white sheep kicking a black sheep off the Australian flag, with the words ‘Improving Security’ (these Liberal Party posters are also available for the public to take home with them and were distributed anonymously—by Büchel—to letterboxes throughout selected suburbs of Hobart). Illuminated light boxes advertise the presence of Helena Rubinstein and Hugo Boss, and a floor plan of the Southdale Shopping Centre greets visitors. There is also a large illuminated light box advertising a joint development project, listing groups such as the State Government of Tasmania, Forestry Tasmania, Transfield, Stantos and Southdale Developments. A miniature coin-operated rescue boat sits in front of an image of Bathurst Harbour in the Southwest National Park with the slogan ‘Developing Tasmania’. This advertisement is also installed on a light box at the Qantas baggage collection carousel at Hobart Airport and appeared as a quarter-page advertisement in The Mercury newspaper. 

Mona’s museum reception area has been transformed into a satellite office of the Tasmanian Information & Travel Centre. Mona’s reception desks, walls and signage have all been re-skinned to share the aesthetic of their Davey Street office in Hobart. Pull-up banners, pamphlets, posters and videos provide advertising for local tourism operators (including Par Avion, a local small plane operator who can fly you to the caravilla in the Southwest National Park), along with racks of souvenirs and postcards to fill the space. Büchel has mixed souvenirs from Port Arthur—site of the 1996 massacre by Martin Bryant in which thirty-five people were killed, and Tasmania’s most famous convict site—with souvenirs from Jerusalem, including a 3D puzzle of the Western Wall, skull caps, and Dome of the Rock snow globes. These are placed adjacent to a section of kitsch Australian Aboriginal souvenirs including didjeridu of varying size, decorated boomerangs, and dot painting-patterned table mats. These ‘genuine’ souvenirs are mixed with plastic moulds in the shape of Aboriginal faces and boomerangs used for making white chocolates, and a selection of locally made golliwogs.

Büchel’s Southdale continues through the spaces surrounding Mona’s glass lift. At the entrance to Mona’s permanent museum shop is an A-frame, trestle table and shelving promoting the release of David Walsh’s new biography, The Land of David. This 380-page book, published by Southdale Publishing, comes complete with an ISBN shared with the first edition of Mein Kampf. On the cover of the book is a portrait of David Walsh wearing a t-shirt printed with a portrait of Critchley Parker. The fallacious biography contains a selection of essays, diaries, lists, and images all of which relate to the story of Critchley Parker’s misadventure, and the related love story and political climate in Australia at the time and today. Other texts include a complete list of Israeli illegal settlements, Eichmann’s final solution, Tasmanian Government gaming legislation, an extract from a biography of Solomon Guggenheim, Critchley Parker’s diaries, an extract from Richard Flanagan’s novel Gould’s Book of Fish, a graphic novel produced by the Australian Government to warn refugees against people smugglers, and a copy of the Transfield Services Reconciliation Action Plan. The A-frame placed in front of the shelf of books announces that David Walsh will be present for a book signing today (which he won’t be). To the right of the Land of David book promotion are three imitation Le Corbusier chaise lounges, modified with arm rests to accommodate people donating blood. With these chairs sits a trestle table dressed with a Red Cross table cloth, IV blood bag stands, information slips and forms for blood donation, and a Red Cross pull-up banner showing a happy, white, middle class family.

Continuing on, we pass inconspicuous advertisements for Audi and Calvin Klein, and a poster for a new champagne and oyster bar opening at Mona called The Midden. Mona’s busy cafe in Courtyard House has been transformed into a Starbucks, complete with cups, mugs, hats, staff uniforms and a machine pumping out artificial scent to make the space smell of baking croissants. On the walls of this seemingly innocuous Starbucks are a group of ‘problematic artworks’ produced by Büchel and his assistant. Though mostly going unnoticed, the presence of some of the imagery could make some cafe patrons feel ill-at-ease—photographs of Nazi gas chambers made in the style of Andy Warhol or an image of a BMW stolen (and set alight) by Martin Bryant during his attempt to escape from the scene of the Port Arthur Massacre. These are combined with a set of anti-Semitic cartoons presented as an exhibition in the Starbucks, along with a group of flattened and framed cement bags from Nesher Israel Cement Enterprises.

The fireplace in the middle of Courtyard House (now an extended seating area for the Starbucks) is filled with a pile of burnt books. These books include Mona’s first publication Monanisms, a number of copies of Büchel’s The Land of David, a handful of copies of the Bible, and a couple of Torah, just to mention a few. Next to the fireplace is a lounge area complete with indoor plants in concrete planter boxes detailed with manufacture stickers from Nesher Israel Cement Enterprises.

On the wall of the Starbucks lounge area are a number of drawings made by local children in Southdale’s play area and by children from Australian detention centres such as Manus Island. The play area includes a white rocking sheep for kids to play on and a set of colourful foam floor letters (which reads ‘DW Fuks Liberals’ when you look closely). A mounted wall monitor shows a looped video of Walt Disney presenting his plan for the Epcot Centre along with historical footage of children being taught about anti-Semitism. On the wall next to a children’s play table is a framed photograph of the interior of the first shopping mall built in America, the Southdale Centre, designed by architect Victor Gruen as a utopian site for community engagement (and a bit of shopping).

Between the glass elevator entrance and the Starbucks seating area, a presentation stand asks visitors to participate in a DNA testing program to check for Aboriginal DNA. The testing station—facing the Red Cross blood donation corner—purports to be operated by the Australian federal government and genetic testing lab DeCODE Genetics and Swiss-based pharmaceuticals and diagnostics company Roche. (The DNA testing stand featured in the Land of David project until a couple of days into the exhibition when Mona, faced with growing animosity towards the artist, the museum and the object itself, chose to remove it from the project.)

Before entering the elevator or descending the stairs into the museum, there is a promotional stand for the Southdale development where the visitor can take a complimentary Southdale orange, a bumper sticker, balloon or a promotional t-shirt.

In the Void (located on level B3 of the museum), Southdale Shopping Centre continues with a set of large banners hanging through the space announcing the forthcoming mall development and continues the presence of the brands appearing at the museum entrance.

Mona’s ferry, which transfers visitors between the Hobart waterfront and museum, is also detailed with signage, video and branding related to the forthcoming Southdale Shopping Centre development and other Land of David themes. The video monitors on the ferry play a looped video message from the Australian Defence Forces to would-be illegal boat arrivals deterring them from taking passage to Australia.

Part Three
Land of David (C ́Mona Community Centre)
Level B3, Mona

A touring gallery, located on level B3 of the museum, has been reconfigured and detailed as a functioning community centre named C’Mona Community Centre (referencing the Australian colloquialism ‘c’mon’, an invitation to join in or be involved). As an evolution of Büchel’s 2011 Piccadilly Community Centre produced at the artist’s gallery Hauser & Wirth in London, C’Mona Community Centre does not transform Mona’s architecture but rather sits conspicuously within its galleries.

A children’s play area with a parental supervision annexe is arranged at one end of the community centre. A domestic-style door leads down a corridor past small side rooms, which house the community centre kitchen, internet cafeteria and small private multi-purpose spaces, before leading into the main community centre space.

The central space of the C’Mona Community Centre is a multi-purpose space hosting everything from weekly clay modelling sessions open to the public, yoga for the local community, tai chi classes, and a series of ongoing workshops with day release prisoners from Risdon prison. The space has a stage area for performance and music, open for bookings from all local community groups. There is a reading library with a focus on community services, a meeting room regularly used by a variety of local organisations, and an op shop selling its wares. There is an exhibition of anti-gambling artworks from a local youth group, and art and craft produced in Risdon prison. Coordinated by two Mona staff, the centre hosted local film premieres, presentations by refugees and immigrants, suicide prevention workshops, and a screening of John Pilger’s Utopia for NAIDOC Week.

Part Four
Land of David (Australian Fair for Freedom of Belief and Religion)
Saturday 26 + Sunday 27 July 2014
Level B3, Mona

The Australian Fair for Freedom of Belief and Religion (AFFBR) was an expo-style event open to religious, spiritual and organised belief groups held in one of Mona’s touring exhibition spaces. Each group was invited to take up an expo booth for the weekend (free of charge) where they could present, discuss, sell, proselytise or harangue the visiting museum crowds. Twenty-eight groups took part across the weekend. In addition to the expo room proper, the AFFBR hosted a series of workshops and lectures presented by each group. The event received good local and national media coverage as the first event of its type held in Australia. As with all other elements of Büchel’s Land of David, the AFFBR was presented as an authorless project initiated by Mona, although most participants had come across enough information before the event to conclude independently that the AFFBR was a Büchel project.

Image: Land of David (Poynduk), 2014, Christoph Büchel

  • When:

    17 June–6 October 2014