It’s deepest darkest June in Hobart, Tasmania and that can mean only one thing….time for urban explorers to rug up and head out into the chilly night air to explore the longest, darkest night of the soul at Dark Mofo.
I started my exploration this year with the Tasman Bridge, which has joined the city-wide campaign to mark the Festival by ‘painting the town red’. Across the city, public and private buildings and major edifices are glowing crimson.
My parents live on the eastern shore with a picture-perfect view of the bridge, and when I visited them on the Thursday afternoon before the Festival proper commenced, they commented that the lights had been off for the previous week. We speculated then that it was likely that it would be red before the week was out, and indeed, I returned home to a message from Dad saying that it had indeed now lit up in what he described as ‘whorehouse red’!
The following night, the real festivities began, with openings at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery of their major exhibition for the year, ‘Tempest’ (which I shall cover in a separate post as it continues for some months), as well as the opening of Dark Park, Dark Mofo’s nocturnal outdoor amusement park tucked away down in a former industrial area of the waterfront.
First of the entertainments was an extraordinary choral work composed by Amanda Cole called A Galaxy of Suns. It was performed by members of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra Chorus, and curously the main credit in the program went not to the composer but to ‘leading artist’ Michaela Gleave. Whatever the niceties, it was a pretty spectacular event. The singers were dressed in silver cowels and capes, which would have protected them well in the event of inclement weather.
The work itself was described in the program as “Microtonal sonic cues are delivered to members of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra Chorus, allowing each to sing the stars live, in real-time for the location”. I’m told by a friend who is a member of the Chorus this did not mean the piece was improvised; he says it was “precisely and carefully composed”, with each of the 36 choristers receiving their cues via individual mobile phone apps.
With the combination of occasion, location, a still, clear sky, costumes, lighting and captivating performance, it made for a spectacular opening to Dark Mofo.
Various huge warehouses in the precinct have been transformed (naturally) into a gallery in which a number of large-scale installation artworks have been installed. My particular favourite of these was The Cloud by the incredibly talented Tasmanian artist Patrick Hall, who hung hundreds of bottles containing faces lit from within over a pool of water, or ‘tears’, according to the program.
The faces on these bottles brought the face plates by Piero Fornasetti to my mind. But of course they were a complete new work all of their own, and presented as part of the whole Dark Park experience, hung overhead and reflected in the pool of water below.
A favourite of may was the hypnotic Our Time by United Visual Artists. Another huge darkened warehouse was hung with lighted pendulums which were set into synchronous motion controlled by a whole bank of computers. Observers were left to explore the space with its changing light patterns and consider their own responses and emotions, as with so much of the very experiential art showcased in this festival.
I only had time for a fleeting glimpse at the total range of experiences on offer and will probably post a further piece with more detail on those.
The Tasmanian School of Art, whose Hunter Street campus is just across the road, was open and displaying a range of works, although I have not been able to find out much about them (or more likely missed them in the program), but it was good to see that insitution welcoming the general public to experience art within its walls.
I was particularly taken by an exhibit in their little street-front gallery space, where visitors put on virtual reality headsets and became an artwork in their own right (I didn’t join the queue to find out what was on the VR, but it was clearly having an impact).
Dark Park is on tonight (Sunday 13 June) and continues next week from Wednesday 16 to Sunday 19 June, 5-10pm. There is plenty of food and refreshment available, so my advice would be to rug up and get amongst it.