Review: What Sydney can learn from MOFO

January 24th 2017

mofo1Faux Mo, Photo Credit: Mona/Rémi Chauvin 

As I stood on a hill watching Pantha du Prince perform, two kids wiggled around in noise cancelling headphones while their parents watched the main stage.

To my right, an elderly couple shook their wiry grey hair. Pantha du Prince looked across the crowd and said, “What a place, yah?” – and he couldn’t have been more right.

MONA FOMA (MOFO) is a summer festival that takes place in and around Hobart’s much-loved MONA museum. The love child of David Walsh, he refers to his museum as a subverted adult Disneyland – and MOFO is its twisted offspring.

Scattered around the gallery were pop-up performances of experimental sound art. Audio-visual artist Scott Cotterell made sounds with a non-input mixer, which he described as, ‘I’ll just plug some shit into some other shit and see what happens.’ While he did this, a crowd of nearly 200 people sat quietly and respectfully, watching the performance inside James Turrell’s outdoor installation, Amarna.

The sense of community was overwhelming. By being unapologetically irreverent and presenting works of a consistently high standard, David Walsh has gained the trust and respect of the people of MOFO. Within the audience, there’s a willingness and eagerness to see what weird and wonderful things he has served up.

There’s a sense of pride that comes with being a part of something that is so true to its progressive ideals. It begs the question: What can Sydney-siders learn from the crazy world of MOFO?

Most of all, it’s the confidence to take more risks, and to see things that challenge us.

The grandparents next to me might not have initially been Pantha Du Prince fans, and I had never listened to Scott Cotterell at home. But that’s why festivals like MOFO are important – they remind us that we don’t always have to play it safe.


The Overtone Ensemble, Photo Credit: Mona/Rémi Chauvin



Pantha Du Prince on Main Stage, Photo Credit: Mona/Rémi Chauvin 



The Overtone Ensemble, Photo Credit: Mona/Rémi Chauvin  


Rainbow Chan on Turrell Stage, Photo Credit: Mona/Rémi Chauvin



FBi’s Arts & Culture executive producer.

Read more from Nerida Ross