Now in its fifth year, Hobart’s Dark Mofo is a fortnight-long festival unlike anything else in Australia, if not the world. A challenging and beautiful celebration of all things dark, strange, eclectic and alternative, Dark Mofo is its own surreal, gothic little micro-universe that you’ll never want to leave.
From live music, theatre and performance art, to incredible food, drink, lasers and fire, you can walk in literally any direction about Hobart with the guarantee of finding something curious and wonderful within a few steps.
More than just the major events, it’s the subtleties that make Dark Mofo even better; from essentially all local stores and trade participating in one way or another, to the haunting ‘siren song’ which rang out across the waterfront each day, to the free installations, lights and unexpected live performance art dotting the streets.
Dark Mofo is enchanting, mesmerising, beautiful, and most importantly, weird as hell. Here are 19 photos to prove it.
Red is synonymous with Dark Mofo, from the logo itself right down to the colour of the text printed on maps and schedules. A friend of mine who lives locally told me that Hobart residents were invited to ‘paint the town red’ for Dark Mofo – quite literally. It was like a Goth Christmas; the moment the sun went down, everything went red. Hotels, art galleries, office blocks and other large buildings had installed massive red lights to illuminate the skyline, while stores, restaurants and private residences followed suit. It was an incredible sight to behold.
This is Ogoh-Ogoh. Ogoh-Ogoh was a massive demonic tiger-like installation at the back of Dark Park. Ogoh-Ogoh wasn’t always on fire; throughout the week, attendees were given little pieces of paper to write down their secrets, fears and anything they wished they could get rid of from their lives. You’d put the pieces of paper inside the demon, via a little slot on its side. On the final night of Dark Park, Ogoh-Ogoh was lit on fire and ceremoniously cremated, symbolically taking your fears and secrets along with it. A beautiful, ritualistic sendoff.
Live music was a major component of Dark Mofo, from street buskers and pub bands, to ticketed performances from Mogwai, A.B. Original, Xiu Xiu and more. It’s hard to choose, but I think my favourite concert was Norway’s Ulver, a band who began their career in black metal and have since ventured across everything from orchestral compositions to theremin-laced ambience. The first of two performances at Dark Mofo, the band focused on synthwave-inspired new album ‘The Assassination of Julius Caesar’, set to the most gorgeous laser-and-lightshow I’ve ever seen at a concert. There were at least five separate laser projectors around the theatre, as well as a long line of thin mirrors behind the stage to reflect the light, making them look even bigger. Again, this photo doesn’t do it justice. It left me speechless.
One of my personal favourite aspects of Dark Mofo was the plethora of hot alcoholic drinks available at the Dark Park, Winter Feast, and many of Hobart’s surrounding bars. There’s something special about standing by a fire on a freezing winter night, drinking a hot toddy or whiskey-laced mulled cider, especially when there’s fire, lasers and live music in the background; it warms you from the inside better than anything else, that’s for sure. The Dark Park had a dedicated Talisker whiskey bar, while nearby bar Tavern 42 Degrees South offered up one of the best honeyed mulled ciders I’ve ever tried.
The only problem with the Winter Feast was that it wasn’t open every single night. I attended Dark Mofo for a week and would’ve happily eaten dinner there each and every night. The interior was lined by red velvet drapes, lit up by hundreds of neon crosses and burning candles, all with live music performed in the background.
Fire is everywhere at Dark Mofo. Open flames dotted Dark Park and the Winter Feast, as well as playing a core role in several art installations and performances. This was the front entrance to the Winter Feast. Each night, these giant pillars would shoot massive flames up into the air, setting a kind of ritualistic, pagan atmosphere not only felt within the feast, but across the entire festival.
The Dark Park, a kind of adult playland filled with bars, couches, fire, lasers and art installations, is situated near the waterfront, and free to enter. Throughout the Park there were various different art installations, as well as a few food stalls, bars predominantly serving whiskey, wine and beer, live music and more.
Crossing was a roving installation and live performance that inhabited churches throughout Tasmania, in Hobart, Launceston, Ross and more. The performance component was led by Danielle de Picciotto and Alexander Hacke (who was also performing with his industrial electronic group Einstürzende Neubauten), while the installation made going to church an entirely new, mesmerising experience for even the least spiritual among us.
Hobart is cold. Really, really cold. It’s perfect for Dark Mofo; the festival wouldn’t have the same atmosphere if it were warmer. Hobart itself is also the kind of city that visually thrives in colder weather, as seen here; even throughout the greyest rolling clouds and strong winds, this city continued to take my breath away for its sheer natural beauty. If anything, the dark, menacing clouds made it even better.
The thing about Hobart is that even without the lights, fire, art and music, it’s one of the most beautiful cities you’ll ever see. There’s this really unique feel of being old and new at the same time, and the waterfront is the most beautiful part. The water was so perfectly still that it felt completely surreal. Dozens of boats were parked around the piers, and there were plenty of bars and restaurants dotting the waterfront, allowing for stunning views. This photo was taken at sunrise, with the rising sun burning a gorgeous pink hue into the clouds above.
Outdoors, open fires were warm and welcoming, adding to an unforgettable dining experience. On top of the food were a myriad stalls with wine, beer, cider and spirits, again focusing on Tasmanian produce, especially when it came to wine.
Chris Levine’s iy_project was the artistic centerpiece of Dark Park, with its spectacular lasers (pared with an ambient soundtrack) that shot higher and further than felt possible. These photos (like the rest in this gallery) don't it justice.
Something many people say about MONA is that it’s an art gallery for people who don’t like art galleries. The same thing can be said for Dark Mofo’s theatrical performances; they’re not exactly ‘traditional’, and they’re engaging, strange, and beautiful to many who might never usually consider attending such a performance. Mike Parr's Empty Ocean is one such performance.
Elsewhere, open fires burnt each night throughout the Dark Park and outdoor area of the feast, not only adding to the vibe, but the perfect way to warm up on those cold Hobart evenings.
Dozens of stalls, almost entirely local, lined the huge warehouse by the pier with food inspired by all kinds of cuisines, though it focused on hearty winter food like curries, fried food, stew and lots and lots of meat.
(All images: Dark Mofo/Lusy Productions or original content)