Satisfying goth fantasies at Dark Mofo 2017

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Hobart's winter celebration felt like a goth fantasy.

Dark Mofo is the jewel in Hobart’s wintery tourism crown. Developed and produced by The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), it has become the high priestess of provocative art, music and film, offering both wonders and horrors for visitors to discover.

Thursday evening's proceedings began with the ambient Siren Song, reverberating through Battery Point.

Welcome Stranger saw several city locations divided up into different zones, with secrecy surrounding what was next in our path; even the staff were deliberately kept in the dark to maintain the mystery. A Masonic lodge, tennis club, hotel, pub and church were transformed, populated with everything from karaoke machines and slot cars, to masseurs and the Glenorchy women’s football club.

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Chonundrule Terminus at Dark Mofo 2017

Some rooms were packed with ephemera like Judy Blume novels and Raggedy Anne dolls to connote a teenage girl’s bedroom, while some contained multimedia installations. One such installation was the Chondrule Terminus, a giant, heaving, lit centipede that sat amidst the checkerboard carpet of the Masonic lodge meeting room.

Diverse tunes were also a big feature. We caught impressive performances by the sassy Betty Grumble, the punk rock of Bitch Diesel and the funk of Doug Hream Blunt and band, but just missed a DJ set by Pussy Riot which was supposedly pretty killer. The event seemed designed to bring people together and it did just that, with plenty conversation starters surrounding us.

Friday we took the 20-minute ferry to MONA, the engine room of Dark Mofo. Set into a cliff face, the building houses many secrets, from creator David Walsh’s reportedly impressive apartment on the roof, to the catacombs underground that lead to the impressive library.

Alongside the entrance is the wondrous James Turrell installation Armana, a giant gazebo that plays with light and colour in typical Turell style. The museum is currently staging the travelling Museum of Everything exhibit, curated by Joseph Bronowski with a focus on ‘outsider’ art, highlighting lesser known, eclectic works from artists that sit outside traditional mediums and ideas. The curator himself was there, casually discussing artworks with passers-by.

Later that night brought a trip to Dark Park, another large industrial communal space with impressive laser shows and more random fires in drums (you will come away from this festival smelling of an open flame, guaranteed).

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Ogah Ogah at Dark Mofo 2017

A huge indoor hangar space contained Balinese sculptures The Naughty Witch and the Ogah Ogah; a hugely realistic and terrifying depiction of a thylacine. Punters were encouraged to write their fears on a piece of paper (18,000 of them, in fact) and feed it to the Ogah Ogah who was to be burned at the closing ceremony later that weekend.

All of Hobart seemed to be on board with the festival. Everywhere from op shops to real estate agents had the red and black colour scheme in their shop windows.

The University of Tasmania’s art faculty had lit up their windows into different ‘cells’, each window containing a different art piece including artists threading and wrapped up in a giant cat’s cradle of wool. A masked woman and man in a skinsuit, responding to punters touching the window, plus three guys getting as drunk as humanly possible while staring blankly ahead at the voyeuristic masses.

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Einstürzende Neubauten at Dark Mofo 2017

For a change of pace later that night we headed to the beautiful Odeon Theatre to catch German industrial outfit Einstürzende Neubauten. The impeccably dressed yet barefooted Blixa Bargeld led the band through a two hour set that included songs from throughout their career, highlights being’ Let’s Do It Da Da Da’ and ‘The Garden’. A smoking Blixa finished the set with the line ‘If you meet your maker, you can tell him you saw his favourite band’. Indeed.

Hobart came to life on Sunday night with a procession to burn the Ogah Ogah heading from parliament lawns to Dark Park. It was a joyous, well-populated community event as thousands of people watched their fears go up in smoke in a fiery frenzy.

Our last event was The Crossing at Scott’s Church. A musical pilgrimage that had travelled through some 200kms to some noted churches in Tasmania, featuring light installations and the work of Miles Brown, an incredible sci-fi synth theremin player that had us transfixed in our church pews.

I came away from the experience feeling like all my goth fantasies had been sated, but could have spent far more time there, soaking up more events and the rest of Hobart’s beautiful scenery. Now, does anyone know how to get that smoke smell out of my favourite jacket?

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