Giant 10km laser beams, feminist pop-rap music in a heritage church, documentaries in shipping docks, roaring fire pits, music installations from a helicopter and a pagan feast – welcome to Dark Mofo.
The brilliantly obscure festival is a fantastical, awe-inspiring experience for almost every sense imaginable, and probably some you never knew you had. It’s a pagan-style festival of arts, culture, music, food and everything in between, injecting life and an infectiously inquisitive vibe into the city of Hobart and the thousands of interstate visitors in attendance each year.
The disruptive cultural event was developed by David Walsh – professional gambler, art collector and entrepreneur, and his team from the iconic Mona museum. It’s a diversion from the arrival of the extreme Tasmanian winter weather, held in the final two weeks leading up to the shortest day of the year. Rather than recoiling into the groove of the couch as soon as the mercury dips below 10 degrees, Dark Mofo brings punters out and about and reveling in the winter chill. Thousands of people pouring into the city throughout the festival are a nod to the success of this Tassie born-and-bred concept, which continues to garner increasing attention from the arts and tourism worlds every year.
Winter Feast (photo: Dark Mofo/Lusy Productions)
Whether you like to while away your evenings at the popular ‘Winter Feast’ crafting your very own smores by the fire and drinking mulled cider (with a shot of whisky of course), or let your imagination loose in one of the wacky art installations at Dark Park with a whole lot of other strangers, Dark Mofo gets under your skin.
Dark Park is like an adult’s playground, an art installation and experience hub set in an enormous docking yard. Lit only by the laser shows and fire pits dotted about the expansive space, it’s open every night to explore. With only vague signage and lines of people to go by, find your way through the space and choose your own adventure.
iy_project (photo: Dark Mofo/Lusy Productions)
One of the highlights (literally) of the intriguing space this year was UK-based artist Chris Levine’s laser installation titled iy_project, a collaboration with sounds produced by Robert Del Naja of Massive Attack and Marco Perry. Punters stumbled into the gravelly industrial area wide-eyed at the mesmerizing lasers encompassing a 50-metre radius. Shooting up to 10km into the night sky and spanning the breadth of the giant circular space, the laser show was best viewed laying down. Not only could you watch as the lights swept over you, but you could feel the vibrations from the impeccable soundtrack.
Encapsulating sounds were a focus for the festival, the ever-popular Siren Sound another must-see event the festival. With speakers adorning the buildings along the waterfront, and more attached to the infamous Dark Mofo helicopter (because why not?), the city is engulfed with eerie vocal sounds at sunrise and sunset for the duration of the festival. Reminiscent of the somewhat spooky but undoubtedly beautiful prayers that soar over so many Islamic cities, the vocal tune stops the city in it’s tracks. Cars stop and hundreds of people flock across the city streets to make their way to the water. The helicopter flies across the waters each dawn and dusk, assisting the already 450-strong collection of speakers to sing their song. Seven minutes of truly breathtaking air-time – the precise amount of time it takes the sun to set.
The flight of the Siren Song helicopter (photo: Dark Mofo/Lusy Productions)
Amongst the dozens of attractions this year, Welcome Stranger was one of the most anticipated – a roaming evening experience taking ticket-holders on a journey around the city to some of it’s landmarks including the Welcome Stranger hotel, the Davey street church and the Masonic Hall.
With little clue as to what they might find, participants were thrown into bizarre scenarios and experiences – from watching ‘court tennis’ to receiving a hot stone massage, all surrounded by strangers on the same quest through the city. Most ended the evening with Transliminal – the infamous dance party held in City Hall – a seamless cacophony of house/techno/dance tunes set to mesmerising lasers.
Nat Randall in The Second Woman (photo: Zan Wimberley, courtesy Nat Randall)
Away from the dark of the night and into the dark of the historic Peacock Theatre, another public-highlight for this year was The Second Woman. An unassuming show on the bill, the production became a cult hit – a non-stop 24-hour show comprising of a repeated scene from John Cassavetes’ 1977 film Opening Night. Sydney performer Nat Randall performed the scene around 100 times with as many men, all volunteers given the script the day before.
Needless to say the spur-of-the-moment character building and hilarious chemistry developed between Randall and her ‘men’ was a sight to behold. Lines out the door throughout the play were sign enough it took great strength to peel yourself from those theatre chairs.
The Burning (photo: Dark Mofo/Lusy Productions)
To top the festival off, the renowned Ogoh Ogoh parade meandered its’ way through the city, marking the end of the festival and the cleansing of the community. A giant model Thylacene crafted by artists in Indonesia was filled with the public’s ‘fears’ written on paper and dropped into the beast in Dark Park throughout the festival. The epic burning of the beast is a fitting finale to this bizarre yet utterly brilliant display of cultural curiosity.
Bravo Mona, bravo Hobart and bravo Tasmania – you’ve brought the buzz back to winter and showed art is better enjoyed as a community.
All images courtesy of Dark Mofo