What to expect from Australia’s weirdest festival

Australia’s most provocative winter arts festival is back — and this year promises to be as bizarre and creepy as ever.

Hosted by the Museum of Old and New Art, Dark Mofo is lighting up Hobart’s dark and wintry nights with a series of boundary-pushing installations, talks, performance and music.

All kinds of weird things happen at Dark Mofo. Performance artist Mike Parr got the nation talking last year when he buried himself under the bitumen on Hobart’s busy Macquarie Street for three days as part of his performance for the festival. Previous years have seen a very controversial animal “sacrificial ritual” performance and an artwork that incorporated real human urine.

You know, that kind of thing.

Held in the lead-up to the winter solstice, Dark Mofo has a lot of weirdness on the program from now until it closes on June 23. Here are some of the highlights.


This is exactly what is sounds like — a spooky 4km walk in the dark through inner-city Hobart’s parks and gardens, with lots of weird and wonderful artworks and events happening along the way.

One of the works, by artist Naomi Blacklock, will bring primal screaming and meditative breathing, bells, salt, soil and mirrors to Hobart’s usually tame inner-city gardens.

Another attraction to check is the Talisker Wilderness Bar, where you can stop for a reprieve — and a bit of Dutch courage to continue on your Dark Path journey — with some Talisker whisky by the open log fires.

The whisky brand, which hails from the Isle of Skye, has concocted a couple of bespoke drinks for Dark Mofo, including a whisky-spiked campfire hot chocolate and a spiced hot toddy.


Looks a bit chilly. Picture: AAP/Rob BlakersSource:AAP

It’s not so surprising this annual Dark Mofo tradition is one of the firm favourites.

Happening on Saturday, June 22 at 7.42am — to be precise — the event will see a massive crowd of brave souls kick off their clothes and plunge into the chilly water off Long Beach in Sandy Bay wearing naught but their swimming caps.

More than 2000 took part in last year’s nude swim, almost double the number the previous year. The best bit? The air temperature around this time of year is usually in the single digits. As we said — brave souls.


The Burning of the Ogoh-Ogoh draws a crowd. Picture: Dark Mofo/Jesse HunnifordSource:Supplied

The ogoh-ogoh is a giant, often menacing looking statue that is used in traditional Balinese festivals traditions to spiritually purify the natural environment.

At Dark Mofo, the ogoh-ogoh will be carried in a procession around the waterfront and then spectacularly set on fire.

Before that happens, festival-goers will be able to write down their anxieties and fears and put them in the belly of the statue, to burn along with it.

The burning will happen with the close of the festival on June 23 and attendees have been pre-warned to block their ears.


James Cauty’s Aftermath Dislocation Principle is in Hobart for Dark Mofo. Picture: James Cauty/DarkLabSource:Supplied

Macquarie Street outside Hobart Town Hall is the next stop for English artist Jimmy Cauty’s provocative installation Aftermath Dislocation Principle, after he toured it around the world.

The piece is a 1:87 scale diorama model of what appears to be the dystopian aftermath of a riot, featuring tiny figurines of police officers and media after the crisis, along with a chilling soundtrack.

The whole thing is encased in a shipping containers, with little holes in the walls you can peer through to look at it.


The Winter Feast is always a highlight of Dark Mofo. Picture: Dark MofoSource:Supplied

This is one of the signature events of Dark Mofo — an incredibly indulgent gothic banquet in a medieval hall where a massive array of stallholders will dish up their world-class food and drinks to hungry crowds of up to 18,000 people a night.

There is a huge variety of cuisines and food styles at this year’s Winter Banquet, along with full displays of fire-cooking on full display.

It’s happening at Princes Wharf 1 at Salamanca each night from June 14 to 16, and June 19 to 23.

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