Interview With Justin Johnstone (MONA)

We caught up with MONA’s Front of House Manager, Justin Johnstone to get a behind the scenes look at MONA and Dark MOFO. Justin regaled us with stories of debaucherous parties, fabulous exhibitions, and his tips for a first time trip to Dark MOFO.

Can you tell us a bit about your role at MONA/ Dark MOFO?
My job title is Front of House manager however it has entailed far more than I'd ever imagined before I started seven or so years ago.

Basically I'm responsible for the Front of House team that includes both the Ticketing and Gallery Attendant teams and for the Visitor experience at Mona and for the Festivals Mofo and Dark Mofo (120 or so staff at Mona and an additional 60 or so during the festivals).  However I also host VIPs, coordinate with the F&B team for Functions and Events on site and off.

The most memorable moments have included the Marina Abramovic exhibition opening at Mona (4,500 or so visitors) and the Mike Parr exhibition ‘Asylum’ that was held in an old mental asylum in New Norfolk that required our team to work during the 72 hour performance in the middle of winter in a remote location (it rained, hailed and snowed).

I've also co ordinated Nude tours of the museum (curated by Stuart Ringholt), fed Cloaca professional (the shit machine) and worked on the door at the Festival after parties Faux Mo and Black List until 4am (looking out for David Walsh, David Burn and local politician David O’Bynre all of whom were on the guest list) before heading down to Sandy Bay to help with the Solstice Nude swim.  Fortunately we've developed a great team of experienced and generally unflappable supervisors and front of house staff.  I am very much in the habit of calling in plenty of favours from staff at all times of the day and night during the festivals.

The Dark MOFO festivities seem to be in conversation with the unique environment in Hobart. What do you think the relationship is between the festival and its location?
Dark Mofo exploded the myth that you can't succeed with getting the locals out in winter or attracting visitors in winter.

With a range of large scale public artworks, performances and events based around the themes of the Winter Solstice, lightness and dark and a range of free programming it has allowed festival goers to experience the waterfront and historic Salamanca areas in winter (regardless of the weather) and shone a light on previously unexplored areas such as Dark Park at Macquarie Point (adjacent to the Art School), the catacombs under Battery Point park and under the Town Hall used as exhibition spaces or the Detached Gallery in the basement of the Old Mercury Building for the Patricia Piccinini show.

Is there anything in particular that you're looking forward to at the festival this year?
The program hasn't been made public yet (and even I haven't been given any specific insights yet) however Winter Feast is on and a highlight for a high standard of food, drinks and performances (Moo Brew, Moorilla Wine and cocktails, Tassie whiskies and food vendors such as Get Shucked oysters and Lady Hester donuts).

Black List Nightclub is likely to be on again and in addition there is always a special event highlight in the program.  Last year it was the Funeral Party - a gothic costume ball evening of cocktails, music and debauchery (a live embalming, performances from TSO choir and then DJ Chelsea Wolf and live band, Itchy ) that was held in a genuine funeral parlour.  Dark Park will be re worked and in a sense is the festival hub.

What is your advice to someone attending Dark MOFO for the first time?
Download the app and rest before you get here as you're not likely to get much sleep while you're here ... and maybe bring a puffer jacket.

BOOK HERE to come on our trip to Dark MOFO

Giles ColliverComment