Now in its fifth year, Tasmania’s Dark Mofo festival has a reputation for programming the dark, demented and esoteric with huge success. The secret seems be partly the niche-ness itself, and partly the fact that they make sure there’s enough free and accessible art and performance to create a genuine sense of festivity across the whole city for two weeks in June.
There’s a Nude Solstice Swim, light and sound installations that take place across the harbour and foreshore (this year’s sonic intervention is Siren Song by Melbourne sound engineer Byron J Scullin and the Supple Fox collective), a public art park (Dark Park), and an outdoor market (Winter Feast) that serves up street food with a local focus, alongside performance and music – and lots of outdoor fire.
If you haven’t experienced the dark arts yet, here are 5 reasons to go this year in particular.
CONTENT WARNING: the image for #5 may be distressing to herbivores and people who feel queasy about blood.
The Scottish post-rockers are headlining the music offering – so even if you’re not a metal/noise/drone fan (and if you are, boy are you covered by this festival) you can get into an appropriately ritualistic mindset via one of their wall-of-sound sets.
2. A 200km theremin pilgrimage.
Billed as a “200km theremin pilgrimage from church to church”, Crossing is a progressive performance that will take viewers from Launceston’s Pilgrim Uniting Church down the Midlands Highway of Tasmania, stopping off at five other churches that each feature a different sound, light or video art installation – and with Miles Brown (of The Night Terrors) leading a pipe organ and theremin performance at each stop. Go for the journey, or pop in for one performance in particular.
3. A massive exhibition of outsider art
British venture The Museum of Everything is a venue (in London), a charity, runs workshops, and has a shop; most importantly, it is nine editions deep for its exhibitions, which present outsider and marginalised art. It’s a perfect fit for David Walsh’s iconoclastic Museum of Old and New Art; as Time Out London said of the inaugural Museum of Everything exhibition, in 2009, “[it is] compelling precisely for eliding (if not flaunting) the familiar, fixed categories and platforms of contemporary art circles and for skirting presiding and arbitrating tastes in both subject and form. The work in the exhibition was, in other words, appealing precisely for its disarmingly, maybe even profoundly ambiguous status.”
4. The biggest laser party you will ever experience, probably.
Canadian-born UK-based light artist Chris Levine is bringing his super-sized laser work the iy_project 136.1 Hz to the harbour: a night-time display featuring 10km laser beams, 3d-mapped sound, and sacred geometry.
5. A neo-pagan sacrificial orgy
Art doesn’t come much more extreme, we assume/hope, than Hermann Nitsch’s blood-soaked ritualistic performances. The Vienna ‘Actionist’ is presenting his work 150.Action within Dark Mofo’s Dark Park – for free. Billed as a “performative ceremony”, it involves his disciples, an orchestra, and 500 litres of blood. It is absolutely not for children (or herbivores, people who have issues with blood, and anyone faint of heart). There will be several performances, and for the rest of the time the work will exist as an installation. We don't know what the work will involve exactly, but it seems likely to cause some controversy. On the extreme violence of some of his work with The Orgies Mysteries Theatre, Nitsch said in a 2015 interview: "Look at the world. Look how much violence you have. I wanted to show with my theater everything, and I want to show trueness. I always say, I want to show birth, death, reality—in every direction."
Dark Mofo creative director Leigh Carmichael says: “This work will be extremely confronting and challenging, but we would encourage our audience to embrace the opportunity to witness the intensity of the ritual, in this one-off exclusive performance, unlikely to ever happen in Australia again.”
Art lovers will be frothing about a new work by pioneering Australian performance artist Mike Parr (whose Willow Court installation and performance was a highlight of Dark Mofo in 2016), and Nat Randall’s Cassavetes-inspired solo work The Second Woman (acclaimed at Next Wave 2016).
Performance lovers will want to check out Victorian Opera’s puppet-led version of Sleeping Beauty, Lucy Guerin’s dance work The Dark Chorus, and Radio Gothic – a mix of theatre and radio play (complete with live foley magic) by a collective of Tasmanian artists.
Music heads are absolutely spoilt for choice. Where do we begin. The line-up ranges from heavies Einstürzende Neubauten and Ulver to hip hop from A.B. Original, post-classical piano from Sophie Hutchings, and Xiu Xiu Plays the Music of Twin Peaks.
Dark Mofo 2017 runs from June 8-21 in Hobart and surrounds. Tickets go on sale Tuesday April 11.
Check out Time Out's guide to Hobart for ideas on where to eat, drink, play and stay.