DARK MOFO 2017: Reflections
I wish to acknowledge that I live and study on the lands of the Wurundjeri and Boonarong peoples. I also want to acknowledge the traditional Palawa owners of the land upon which DARK MOFO operates. Sovereignty was never ceded. I begin by asking you to reflect on the necessity of listening to the voices of Indigenous arts practitioners, which is key to creating an exceptional arts community.
I slide into the passenger seat of my Uber, glance down and recognise a little piece of DARK MOFO. My shoes are bathed in red light. Coasting down Sandy Bay Road, I look to my right and see the Tasman Bridge, glowing red. The light-shop we drive past, the one I’ll pass time and time again during my visit, has set all of its lights to red. This marketing tactic, of bathing the facades of major landmarks in a certain colour to remind everyone something is coming, is not new. But this is something more – the whole town is engaged. The result, an uncanniness borne from the fact you never quite leave the DARK MOFO brand as you move around Hobart. The festival becomes sticky – you can’t get away from it, and the event’s quality means you don’t want to, either. DARK MOFO fuses the identities of MONA and the city of Hobart, unintentionally building a homage to David Walsh, who is referred to multiple times with joviality and reverence during my trip.
The fashion conscious are prowling. Predominantly white metropolitan audiences of varying ages have taken fully to their temporary residency in Hobart. Once again, this isn’t new. Arts aficionados with financial means will travel to many a place in the hopes of witnessing something awesome. But when this crowd overtakes events, their sense of self-absorption and entitlement can create communal sink-holes where fun goes to die. DARK MOFO counters this, as it pulses with the spirit of the community which it serves. A local footy team plays a performance role during ‘Hello Stranger’. Families from down the street make up the audience at Dark Park, feasts, and theatres.
People lose their fucking minds as Le1f and Bhenji Ra storm the stage. I hear contrasting comments in the enthralled crowd – some new to Le1f’s music, and others who are bloody excited to have caught one of their favourites live. The uninitiated and the devout have joined, experiencing together what DARK MOFO has to offer.
DARK MOFO’s freedom of control creates environments that do not patronise, but at times leave those needing support by the wayside. We need a bigger push when it comes to all-gender bathrooms. Trans and Gender Non-Conforming people should feel comfortable in all bathrooms at all venues of the festival. Patron safety at club events like ‘Transliminal’ need to move beyond hard to locate signs with phone numbers to a highly visible human presence on the floor. To run a good party, clubbing events require an in-house team trained in prioritising the safety of those who may be at risk. Visible signage, clear communication regarding venue accessibility, and the aforementioned in-house team are great places to start. DARK MOFO epitomises agility through its programming, and I look forward to the quality of safety matching the rest of this ambiguous adventure.