Since Neolithic times, communities have gathered on the winter solstice to face down the darkness and celebrate the return of the light. This June, Dark Mofo – the Museum of Old and New Art’s winter festival in Australia – celebrates ancient and contemporary mythology around the darkest night of the year, and presents opportunities to explore our shadow selves.
Last year, Dark Mofo attracted more than 130,000 people to events across 10 days in Hobart on the island state of Tasmania. This year, coinciding with the opening of Mona’s major exhibition curated by Nicole Durling and Olivier Varenne, Private Archaeology by Marina Abramovic, Dark Mofo is also spreading its tentacles into new spaces around the state, with performances from around 250 artists hailing from a dozen different countries around the world.
Opening on Friday 12 June, Dark Mofo 2015 unveils a new festival precinct called Dark Park at Hobart’s harbourside Macquarie Point, with large public artworks including the high-octane Fire Organ by German chemo-acoustic engineer Bastiaan Maris with producer Duckpond, the full-body sonic massage immersion of Bass Bath by Melbourne’s Byron J. Scullin in collaboration with Supple Fox, plus British-born American avant-garde artist Anthony McCall’s installations of light and fire works at Dark Park, as well as a Night Ship to prowl the river throughout the festival. You’ll hear it coming.
Hobart’s historic Odeon Theatre will host a queer and deliciously dark music program, featuring Australian exclusive performances of British award-winning torch singer Antony and the Johnsons with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and British art-pop collective The Irrepressibles.
The program also includes Arkansas doom metalheads Pallbearer, electro-conducting Japanoise-maker EYE, Rhode Island sludge metal duo The Body, dark Australian folkster and founder of The Drones, Gareth Liddiard, one-woman performance vocalist Kusum Normoyle, Seattle horror-country black-and-roller King Dude, Melbourne’s theatrical chanteuse Brous, dark electronic artist Jake Blood, German industrial dance occultists Oake, Melbourne’s agitated guitar rockers My Disco, smoky chillwave from Melbourne’s Klo and odd pop from Hobart’s Tiger Choir, plus Sydney indie-rock party-starters The Preatures.
Mid-week, road trip into the true heart of the Tasmanian winter with Wild at Heart; a two-night immersive art experience sleepover (June 15-17) within Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. Presented by Cradle Mountain Hotel and Dark Mofo and curated by the Unconscious Collective (Motel Dreaming), Wild at Heart includes an exhibition opening of Remote Nature Response by Melbourne contemporary artist Ash Keating, and a dark and debaucherous banquet by British jellymongers and architectural foodsmiths, Bompas and Parr.
Dark Mofo Films launches at the Odeon with the red-carpet world premiere of the first adult drama television series filmed in Tasmania, The Kettering Incident, in a special double-episode screening before its Foxtel premiere later this year. Dark Mofo Films then continues at North Hobart’s century-old State Cinema with a selection of new Nordic dark folkloric films including A Second Chance, A Spell to Ward off the Darkness, Down Terrace, A Field in England, Partisan, Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America, Valhalla Rising, When Animals Dream, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, and more – in another confronting and cutting-edge program conjured by curators Nick Batzias and James Hewison.
Dark Mofo’s Bacchanalian community celebration, the City of Hobart Dark Mofo Winter Feast, returns for a longer and lustier five nights of food, fire, music and performance, at Hobart’s dockside Princes Wharf Shed 1, this year spreading outside onto Salamanca Lawns and inside the Hothouse Structure. Curated by Gill Minervini, the Winter Feast climaxes on the solstice night with a demon-purging Balinese ogoh-ogoh parade making its way from Dark Park towards the Feast for a ritualistic burning of the community’s collective fears.
Contemporary theatre highlights include Virginia Woolf’s Orlando performed by Victoria’s THE RABBLE theatre company at Australia’s oldest theatre, the Theatre Royal in Hobart, plus a kooky take for ages six and over on Roald Dahl’s creepy The Witches at Salamanca Arts Centre’s Peacock Theatre. There are also select experiences of Funeral. Why wait until you’re dead?
More Dark Mofo visual arts highlights include Patricia Piccinini and Peter Hennessey’s The Shadows Calling at Hobart’s newest CBD cultural space, Detached; plus John Kelly’s Beyond Woop Woop with his new Antarctic paintings at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. Other highlights include: Melbourne textile installation artist Douglas McManus’ Laundry of the Terminal Psyche at Clarence Council’s Rosny Barn; and after-dark installations, Radiant Heat by Lucy Bleach and Angry Electrons by Jason James at the Centre for the Arts (University of Tasmania) on the Hobart docks.
There’s also a new late-night ceremonial death dance curated by Supple Fox called Blacklist – you will want your name on it, as Dark Mofo builds up to the longest night and winter solstice (Monday 22 June – 2.38am) with the annual Nude Solstice Swim at sunrise (Monday 22 June – 7.10am) – release your inhibitions with your clothes and go towards the light.
“With the third iteration of Dark Mofo, we are pushing ourselves to the limit with a program that will challenge, disturb, excite, and hopefully enlighten our audience in some small way,” says Dark Mofo Creative Director Leigh Carmichael.
Dark Mofo 2015 runs 12 – 22 June. For more information, visit: www.darkmofo.net.au for details.
Image: Dark Mofo Winter Feast 2014 (supplied)