FOMO for MOFO: Culture Scouts Goes Interstate For The Dark Festival

Co-written by Culture Scouts Emilya Colliver & Sophia de Mestre

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A thousand thanks to Bryon Merzeo for helping Culture Scouts with arrangements!

Culture Scouts packed its bags to head south for the winter. Joining the annual pilgrimage to Hobart’s Dark Mofo, last weekend we led a dozen amongst thousands of winter solstice worshippers to the best sites.

It was a heady weekend of late night festivities, immersive installations and performances, music, light and noise. Although we ate the best of Tasmanian produce including cheeses, wines, bespoke beers, gin and apple cider, the best feasting was found at the deluge of artistic offerings.

Dark MOFO: a quick history
The festival, Dark Mofo, was originally launched by Hobart’s Mona (Museum of New and Old Art) as the winter sister to MONA Festival of Music and Art.

Mofo delves into centuries-old winter solstice rituals; aiming to explore the links between ancient and contemporary mythology, humans and nature, religious and secular traditions, darkness and light, and birth, death and renewal.

The darkness descends and the music rises...
Our first evening sets the tone for the weekend as we venture down to Salamanca Bay. Like a call to prayer, the meditative and emotive, Siren Song, begins to play. There are no holds barred as the melody is played from 450 speakers positioned around the city and (no less) a dancing helicopter.

Video Credit: The Guardian

It lasts around seven minutes – the time it takes for the sun to fully set.

It’s hard to imagine Melbourne or Sydney agreeing to rig up their CBD buildings with speakers blasting siren songs at dawn and dusk...

DARK party in the PARK
We head to DARK PARK to pursue some art delicacies. We’re met by technicolour lasers and immersive sound transform the night sky, organised by the rules of sacred geometry.

First up, we see IY PROJECT by Chris Levine & Robert Del Naja (Massive Attack) and Marco Perry. Meditative, dramatic, and slightly disorientating. According to the gossip, the installations are, in fact, based on sacred geometries and meditation frequencies.

Daniel Boyd’s Hello Darkness is next on the agenda. Presented in a warehouse setting, Boyd’s work consists of a light installation and series of video projections. Dots are the connecting feature. The four video works, presented in pairs, are composed of black screens with transparent circles that simultaneously reveal and obscure underlying images.

Ambient light diffuses the image intensity and audience members position themselves between the projectors and the screen, dancing and allowing their bodies to be momentarily enveloped by dots.

Winter Feast - the food heart & soul of Dark Mofo
It’s a badly kept secret that this midwinter banquet is the main Mofo attraction. Up to 10,000 people come to the Hobart waterfront each night, with fire and flames a central theme of the feast. But the real pull are the stunning long tables laden with thousands of candles.

As we were to learn later on at Mona, alcohol is considered a valuable constituent when look at art.

MONA with Justin
A tour with front of house manager, Justin Johnstone through the subterranean museum art collection is an entirely different museum experience. As stated by the infamous David Walsh, Mona is an ‘anti-museum’. Even the front entrance is comparatively understated in contrast to the grandiose and somewhat intimidating entrances of a traditional museums.

Read our interview with Justin here

Walsh’s collection is authentically his own; Ancient Egyptian sarcophagus are interspersed with contemporary installations, digital works, and digestive machines. Extra un-museum like bonus was their onsite Moorilla wines cellar door. Glass in hand we wandered through the gravity assisted winery.

‘The Museum of Everything’ exhibition
Ever though art was snobby? ‘The Museum of Everything’ Mona exhibition is anything but. Founded and curated by James Brett, the travelling institution, which opened in London in 2009, advocates for the visibility of art that falls outside the confines of the art world proper.

These artists don’t have degrees, but they might have visions or compulsions; they are transcendent scientists, self-taught architects, and citizen inventors; sometimes, they are dedicated followers of personal belief systems, or producing art from inside a hospital or prison.

Sunset Skyspace
Seated on heated concrete benches, we watch the sky’s changing light and cloud patterns as they pass across a central rectangular opening in the canopy, which itself is washed by an ever-changing mosaic of different computer-generated colours.

AMARNA is one of a series of more than 80 Skyspace installations Turrell has built in high altitude and geographically isolated locations. MONA’s work is the largest Skyspace to date and Turrell’s southern-most installation.

Welcome Stranger…
The Siren Song plays again and dusk descends once more.

Our group scattered: some of us braved the Welcome Stranger obstacle course, others watch the unforgettable live performances by political sex clown, Betty Grumble in a 19th century church.

There was karaoke in thematic rooms at the Welcome Stranger pub, ballet performances with tennis balls at the Royal Tennis Club, Jess Johnson’s digital inspired works at the Masonic Hall, Ulver’s cinematic masterpiece with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra amongst too many to count

For those who had stamina (or who think they do) at 1am head to Transliminal - the electronic underbelly of the subterranean club scene.

Seeing the Art Mob
Owner of Art Mob art gallery, Euan Hills, invited us bright and arlt to his gallery to view the collection of Indigenous paintings, shell necklaces and other artifacts. Euan, who has been an Indigenous art dealer for over 15 years, is well connected amongst communities all over Australia.

Getting out: the nature of Mount Wellington

It was a relief to immerse oneself in the nature of Mount Wellington after all the dark and subterranean experiences of the last couple of days. The spectacular panoramic view of Hobart and the Southern ocean tingle the senses as fresh chilly air blasted our faces. The Alpine sub-climate at the top of the mountain is a visual spectacle with gnarled and twisted eucalyptus trees, heathers and moss covered boulders.