Live, Music, Reviews, Visual Arts

Dark Mofo review (Hobart)

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Australians often think of winter with a veil of apprehension. Long, dark nights with frosted air waft over dormant cities as we  huddle together waiting for the re-emergence of climes suitable for beaches, BBQs and beer gardens.

Dark Mofo flips all of this thinking on its head.

Winter in Tasmania for a couple of weeks is the setting for splendour. Out of darkness comes vivid splashes of light, rumbling pits of fire, and a Bacchanalian celebration of guilty pleasures.

It’s dark, cold and a bit wet but Dark Mofo harkens back to pagan festivities in celebrating all that’s wondrous about the winter months.

Winter Feast

The culinary epicentre of the festival is the Winter Feast at PW1 in Salamanca which features every indulgence imaginable.

The PW1 hall is bedecked in red velvet curtains, thousands of candles line its central tables lined from end to end and neon-lit crosses dangle from the roof. Outside, black-cloaked figures carry flamed-torches aloft as they silently circle feast-goers. And everywhere musicians of all varieties – jazz, country, blues, and experimental cello.

The Museum of Old and New Art’s Heavy Metal Kitchen pumps out a collection of spit-roasted meats while other stalls have their variations of delicious gluttony. Huon Tasmania’s Japanese-style aburi salmon prepared and blow-torched in front of youis out of this world and The Gourmet Farmer’s Matthew Evans’ fat pig buns are sensational as usual.

winter2webfeast

To wash it all down you can taste some of Tasmania’s famous whiskey, wine, gin, craft beer and ginger beer.

Dark Park

Back for the second year at the Macquarie Point industrial area, Dark Park features a myriad of wonderful installations that transform an otherwise empty and grim space into a wonderland of fantastical art.

Christian Wagstaff and Keith Courtney’s House of Mirrors is a brilliant twist on the old fairground classic. It’s an intricate maze of floor to roof mirrors in which attendees attempt to find their way through with one hand outstretched to avoid the inevitable bumps into their reflections.

Patrick Hall’s The Cloud recycles bottles and turns them into a glowing mesh of faces that flicker and drip water.

United Visual Artists’ Our Time features an entire warehouse of pendulums with suspended lights in a grid. In beautiful unison the lights sway and flicker on and off in a bewitching display.

Mayonaize’s The Labyrinth is the park’s signature instalment. A maze of shipping containers sprayed with street art twists and turns until it reaches  a central vault wherein the Melbourne artist slaps people’s names upon the wall in artful street calligraphy.

darkweb park labyrinth

It was here in Dark Park that the Ogoh-Ogoh Purging and Burning took place. It’s a nod to Indonesia ritual;  Ogah-Ogah involves a large, paper mache dragon filled with notes of people’s fears that are paraded through the streets and then burned in a final celebration.

Blacklist

While Dark Park and the Winter Feast are family friendly Blacklist is about more wicked, late-night party spoils.

Located around the Hobart City Hall and surrounding areas Blacklist is all about exploration. Only by investigating every nook and cranny can you uncover­­ all its strange and wonderful surprises.

Colorado-based experimental musicians Itchy-O were a constant feature on the second weekend of Dark Mofo, turning up at the Feast one night, taking part in the Burning of the Ogah-Ogah another, and, of course, holding court at Blacklist.

With over 32-plus members Itchy-O are a wandering band of troubadours featuring Chinese dragons, taiko drummers, synthesisers, vocoders, theremins, burka-clad dancer sand just about every other bizarre instrumentation you can imagine. They’re a blast of unique music performance art that is as shocking as it is entertaining. Their shorter performances show their power best as their Blacklist stay began to wear out its welcome well past the hour and a half mark.

Music, Film & Arts

Chelsea Wolfe’s brand of gothic noir rock is tailor made for this festival. She might not be everyone’s cup of tea but her set sated those looking for a heavier does of aural entertainment.

The festival also features a range of selected films. Fire at Sea, recently won the Golden Bear award at the Berlin International Film Festival, and was one of the standouts on the program. The Italian documentary is set on the island of Lampedusa and contrasts the everyday lives of its citizens with the horrors forced upon the migrants who pass through the island on their way to Europe.

Billed as ‘the fastest pianist in the world’ virtuoso ivory-basher Lubomyr Melnyk can fire off an average of 14-15 notes a second for an hour straight. His performance Rivers and Streams was a breathtaking showcase of his extraordinary skills. His technical abilities are taken to another world with his compositions which mix dissonance, rhythm and melody.

In between playing he engaged in some wonderful banter with the audience about the songs’ construction through to philosophical ponderings. There are few times where I have walked out of a gig gob-smacked, but Melynk’s show was one of those.

Like any Mona-devised occurrence, Dark Mofo delights, horrifies and stupefies in equal measure. An average punter will laugh off the quirky strangeness of some sections, and artsy-types will tie themselves in knots explaining the intrinsic genius of others. But fundamentally the festival is about enjoyment, trying something new and engaging with an event pulled off with panache, grace and utter disrespect for conventional public lighting laws.

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