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5 Things We Learnt At Dark Mofo

5 Things We Learnt At Dark Mofo

Dark Mofo, the MONA-sponsored ten day festival that roars through Hobart each year leading up to the winter solstice like a kooky, sinister storm, has just come to a spectacular end. Like its sister festival MONA FOMA, Dark Mofo is a city-wide celebration of art, culture, food and music, but with a few wintery twists thrown in – think somewhere between “Viking victory feast”, “90s secret warehouse rave” and “pagan blood sacrifice”. That might sound scary, but doom and gloom has never been so fun – here are just a few ways we learned to find joy in the darkness.


#1 MONA is worth the hype


We were devastated to have missed both of legendary performance artist Marina Abramovic’s in-person appearances at MONA, so we put the retrospective exhibition of her work at the top of our must-see list. No sooner did we touch down in Hobart at 7am on Thursday morning than we hustled down to the harbour to catch the MONA ROMA ferry to the museum, stopping only to gulp down a delicious brekkie from Straight Up cafe in record time.

A short trip spent perched on plastic sheep later, we arrived and spent half the day wandering through what is arguably the world’s weirdest museum. Abramovic’s interactive exhibition – in which we were encouraged to spend as long as we wanted resting our foreheads on quart pillows, laying on copper beds or meditatively counting rice with sound-cancelling earmuffs on – was an incredible, original addition to the permanent collection. If adult-size trampolines hung with bells, vulva galleries or poop machines sound good (or at least interesting) to you, MONA is the place to be.


#2 Expect the unexpected


Nothing about Dark Mofo was predictable, from the music programming to the mysterious Blacklist after-parties. Featuring acts as varied as Antony & the Johnsons, Yamantaka Eye, Pallbearer and The Irrepressibles, Dark Mofo traversed the territory between sludge metal and experimental noise to emotional indie pop and back. But if you’re after surprises, Blacklist (the club-style after-party soundtracked by some of Australia’s top DJs) is the after-hours destination of choice.

A kissing booth, audiovisual presentation of a woman holding her breath inside of a water-filled box for several minutes, silent concerts by fake bands, interpretive dances performed around a rotating “flesh carousel” by women in nude body-stockings and the spreading of a giant sheet over the crowd for the length of a song are only a few of the ways Blacklist kept things fresh. (Not to mention the rumours about a lucky few Blacklisters who were “abducted” away to private performances elsewhere in Hobart). At one point, we were divided up by star sign for a “follow the leader” style group dance, before being given eye masks and encouraged to sleep on the floor while a band played. You get the idea.

#3 It’s all about the art, man


Although the musical lineup is a huge draw, Dark Mofo is first and foremost about art – visual, performance-based, experiential–you name it. Best of all, it’s largely not confined to the museum. Official offerings like Patricia Piccinni and Peter Hennessy’s viscerally disturbing exhibition of fleshy flowers and semi-human mutants, Anthony McCall’s wonderfully interactive “Solid Light Works”, or the impressive pyrotechnics of Fire Organ (exactly what it sounds like), were the focal point of the Dark Mofo experience. But strong visual branding evident in the ominous red that illuminated countless buildings across Hobart, the care given to decorating the Winter Feast hall with twigs and open fire pits, as well as the exciting spectacle of the Ogoh-Ogoh procession and burning, rounded out our time in Hobart as a remarkably rich sensory experience.

#4 Hobart is actually the food capital of Australia


Speaking of sensory experienes…Tasmania is famous for seafood and wine, but I didn’t realize how seriously Hobart takes its other culinary pursuits until I spent four days sampling the local #cafeculture (which might even rival Melbourne’s) and four nights gorging myself at the Winter Feast. We were lucky enough to breakfast on coffee and pastries at Villino Cafe, chow down on a delicious spread of pork and mushroom milk buns at chic eatery West End Pumphouse, and booze it up with a  delicious and highly-informative tasting of Tasmanian specialty wines ($10 for 6 half-glasses!) at Gasworks Cellar Door, but even so, the Winter Feast takes the cake (sorry).

A few things we tried: delectable peking duck wraps, spicy Ethiopian wat with injera, crispy lamb and haloumi pizza, tender brisket, savoury bacon buns, delicious cheese platters, succulent oysters and steamed dumplings, followed by dessert (sourdough doughnuts and churros that I swear CHANGED MY LIFE) and all washed down by every seasonally-appropriate drink imaginable (mulled mead, hot ginger ale, cinnamon chilli hot cocoa). It was all so good I’m almost jealous of myself.

#5 Location is everything


It’s easy to get caught up in the festival itinerary, but even when we were rushing between events and exhibitions, taking a moment (or several) to absorb the atmosphere, sights and sounds was well worth it. Hobart is a beautiful, walkable city loaded with history, equal parts quaint and cutting-edge, and we were lucky enough to enjoy several days of clear, sunny (but very cold, do not under any circumstances underestimate how cold you will be) weather, perfect for relaxing in one of the many parks or ambling along the waterfront to catch a glimpse of mountains across the bay. The unspoiled natural beauty of Hobart and the surrounding landscape are a huge part of what make Dark Mofo so special, so make sure you stop and smell the air quality.

The writer visited as a guest of Dark Mofo and Tourism Tasmania. (Photos: Kristoffer Paulsen)

Time to start planning your summer jaunt to MONA FOMA? Check out Qantas flights to Hobart here.

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