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Dark Mofo 2017: dark, deep and occassional sightings of David Walsh

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Hobart at night is awash with pools of red light. Building facades, boats, reflections, windows. Black hoods with red crosses, we’re in Dark Mofo.


The program is thick and deep with allure. The hot buzz was for Pussy Riot, Paul Kelly and Mogwai — “Did you see Mogwai?’ was Sunday’s refrain. The night before a tall female in Disco Goth waved us down in the street, ‘Want tickets to Mogwai?’

Beyond music, there was artist Mike Parr’s mystery act on Bruny Island. You had to be up at 2am to catch the boat for that, and stay till 5am. The prospective audience was requested to bring a torch, wear closed-toe footwear and be dressed for open air Tassie winter. Then there is the rather frightening protest-magnet Hermann Nitsch who promises live slaughtering and blood letting of cattle with human nudity in a quasi-religious ritual. Definitely closed-toe shoes, goggles, and maybe a sick bag.


For everyone there is the free space of Dark Park, and the Winter Feast food and drink hall (pictured below), free entry after 8pm, with an outdoors area, loud with crowds, revelry and live bands, where everyone seems to end up. In a roped-off corner alcove like a prize animal exhibit, we saw David Walsh, the beaming MONArch of this MONArchy. The vast space is lit with a ceiling strung with red neon crosses and benches traversing the entire length dressed with hundreds of candles. It’s like an epic birthday party for Nick Cave.



To cross from the Feast to Dark Park you tramp past the piers and the hip, new hotel MACq01, ‘a storytelling hotel’, where each guest room displays its own Tasmanian Story. (But perhaps not the one about Risdon Cove.) Then you arrive at the Art School where every student seems to have been assigned a showcase window (see picture below). The most popular mode was interactive — students on the inside press their hands to the glass and passersby put their hands against theirs. This was repeated in three variations including figures in full body socks. Also behind glass was a woman sitting in a mountain crevasse of bubble wrap, carefully cutting out single bubbles and placing them in a jar. A mystery, but no cattle harmed.



At the very popular Dark Park there is a variety of diversions, all free. On an as yet undeveloped industrial site, it is unlit as advertised. ‘Lots of HS&E issues here’ joked one of my companions as we stumbled around. For choice there is a Balinese-inspired giant potato-shaped furnace, Ogoh-ogoh, where you can burn notes written with your deepest fears, which also looked like an excellent pizza oven.

There is Marco Fusinato’s Extended Breakdown in a mist- and industrial debris-filled warehouse with spook lighting (see picture below). Earplugs are provided as you enter — it’s at least as loud as the last teen party you accidentally crashed. Actually it hurt my ears and didn’t improve my headache, so I left within a minute. Even viewing 10 seconds of a version of Extended Breakdown on Youtube hurts my ears. People with princess hearing, don’t do it! We lost a friend to the racket — he came out 10 minutes later pounding his chest. ‘Really gets you here’ he shouted at us. Don’t shout, we shouted back, making deaf gestures.


The highlight is Chris Levine’s light installation, iy_project (pictured below). First created in Hastings, UK, it’s the unmissable centrepiece, mounted on three enormous pylons. These have laser lights projecting through vapour to a dreamy ambient soundtrack by Robert del Naja of Massive Attack and Marco Perry. (Essentially a highly evolved descendant of Anthony McCall’s light pieces of the 1970s.) You stand among hundreds in the immersive dark looking up. The air above is animated by laser fields in red. As vapour flows across the beams it conjures a cosmic dawn of clouds. This is sheer spectacle, like fireworks for a new apocalyptic era. (Follow the beams to a distant barn structure for a bonus interior light show.)



For a disappointing anticlimax you can wait on a ramp for an hour in the cold, as we did, to view The Sound of Silence by the political artist Alfredo Jaar (it only seats 30 people per screening). It’s purportedly an eight-minute silent film about a single photograph, but they don’t tell you even this much — hey, it’s a surprise/mystery/art. What it is [—spoiler alert—] is a sequence of white text on a black screen, with the image appearing for just a second or two towards the end, plus a special effect of a single strobe flash. The text tells a brief story of Kevin Carter who took a very controversial photo and who killed himself shortly after he won the Pulitzer Prize for the picture. (You can see it here). Our annoyed consensus was that the “film” is a visually inert piece of moral grandstanding that at the end also incoherently tries to drag Bill Gates and the entire image industry into complicity. Poor Kevin Carter, after his short (1960-1994) and rather pained life, he’s now rolling in his grave.

Rather unexpectedly, and perhaps characteristically Hobartian, the plug on Dark Park is promptly pulled at 10pm. We all went home cheerful, cold and bright and ready for a log fire and hot drinks.

Dark Mofo continues in Hobart until June 21

All images by WH Chong. You can follow Chong on instagram: @w.h.chong

4 responses to “Dark Mofo 2017: dark, deep and occassional sightings of David Walsh

    1. Originally MONA FOMA for the summer festival, shortened to Dark MOFO for the winter festival. Museum of Old and New Art, Festival Of Music and Art

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