Highlights :: Dark Mofo
July 10th 2014
A couple of weeks ago a bunch of FBi-ers found themselves down in Hobart for MONA‘s winter solstice festival, Dark Mofo. We ate, we got our art on, we got naked. This is what we learnt.
1. Things get loud. Like, really loud
These were the words emailed to us as a warning before the legendary Sunn O))) gig at the Odeon Theatre. If you thought a basic YouTube search of the Seattle-based drone metal band would be enough to prepare you, think again. Or do it, but watch from inside a spinning washing machine. The theatre was set up with so many amps that the slow, distorted soundscape they produced hit like a tonne of bricks and made every body part vibrate. That – and the fact that the band were dressed in black capes and hidden in a fog – made this gig both one of the greatest and weirdest experiences we’ve had.
2. MONA has a poo machine
Built from the fortunes that it’s founder, David Walsh, made through a career of professional gambling, MONA is not your average gallery. Belgian artist Wim Delvoye’s Cloaca Professional, a machine that replicates the human digestive system, is just one bizarre example of the museum’s eclectic collection. Three times a day Cloaca is fed food that passes through a series of mechanical organs suspended from the ceiling and is eventually excreted as the world’s most expensive poo. It’s the museum’s most hated but also most visited artwork and yep, it smells like shit. But as Delvoye says, it’s shit that makes us equal: “I mean, poor people, rich people, male, female, black, white, whatever, anywhere, south, north … wherever you go, people understand ‘Cloaca’. People understand the shit.”
3. Cleaning is kind of fun
For an art festival, Dark Mofo nailed the concept of audience interactivity. Giant laser lights soared above Hobart in Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Articulated Intersect, left to the control of whoever happened to walk past them. Each night Salamanca Place was transformed into a red, firelit feast with performers popping up everywhere from stages to a ‘Ferris Wheel of Death’. By the waterfront, a frozen wall of polluted water from the Derwent River sat, slowly melting as it was mopped clean by passers-by. Chinese artist Yin Xiuzheng re-constructed her famous Washing River especially for this year’s Dark Mofo, and it sat as a glaring reminder of our impact on the environment (- and that if you make it look like fun, kids will mop all day).
4. Always open doors that say ‘do not open’
The week was packed with unusual experiences, experimental music, underground art displays and midnight cult-esque gatherings at churches. But where shit really got weird was at Dark Faux Mo, the official Mofo afterparty in and around the Odeon Theatre. For the curious punter, the many doors and hallways behind the scenes at the Odeon held secret stages, dance parties and creepy performance art. The highlight for us, and for the other 20 odd people who managed to squeeze in, was the tiny Afro-beat stage in a fire escape that morphed into the best 90’s R&B mini-disco session we’ve ever had.
5. People just want to get naked
It doesn’t matter that it’s the middle of winter in one of Australia’s coldest cities, people will get their kit off at the drop of a towel. On the final morning of Mofo, more than 700 people of all shapes and sizes rocked up at Sandy Bay to run like mad into the icy 12 degree river. Whatever it is that compels humans to strip amongst strangers without a second thought in a society hung up on physical appearance is a strange but wonderful thing. Somehow, surrounded by mountains in the wee hours of a Sunday morning, buzzing with the raw excitement of hundreds of streakers, nudity is forgotten. The body is natural. The experience is liberating. The only thing keeping you grounded by the beating of Buddhist drums and the orange smoke of flare guns is the rugged up crowd of hundreds who have gathered metres from the shoreline with iPhones cameras held in mittened hands, to watch a bunch of weirdos run around in the nude.
Get more info on Dark Mofo here
Photography by Kate Davis.