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  • Writer's pictureWill Boddy

"DARK MOFO" 2021 Event Guide

After a year off due to COVID-19 restrictions, the annual Mona “DARK MOFO” festival returns bigger and better than ever in 2021, with seven nights of encapsulating music, art installations and community engagement.

Now in its eighth iteration, the usual suspects will be making appearances – some revealing more than others – from the shrivelling "Nude Solstice Swim", the great "Ogoh-Ogoh Purging" and "Burning", the spectacular "Winter Feast", and a first for the state, the unveiling of a new bell tower situated 'In The Hanging Garden'.

"Ogoh-Ogoh Parade 2018". Image from:

Featuring works from performers both musically and artistically – hailing from more than 13 different countries around the world – Creative Director Leigh Carmichael assures festivalgoers that many of this year’s spectacles will be free of charge, in lieu of last year’s cancellation and to boost attendance.

Commencing from Wednesday, June 16 through to Tuesday, June 22, exhibitions and selected shows feature throughout the day, and, come sundown, the Hobart Waterfront and surrounds will be engulfed in light.

The overarching theme is based on a journey into “The Dark Night of the Soul”, referring to the many months the festival sat in limbo - as it does right now - and the unknown destination and glimmer that beckons deep from within the soul. All are invited to enjoy the festivities and pray it provides some piece of hope and shines light on these uncertain times.

Below is a much more detailed layout of the signature events, the art exhibitions, unique moving and static displays, and the many outstanding musical performances coming to Hobart this year.

Signature Events

As the official starting date of DARK MOFO 2020 is Wednesday, June 16, the festival runs for six days and nights up until Tuesday, June 22, with countless little nooks and crannies throughout the city holding unique, wacky and engaging art and artists, some things stay grounded.


From the 16th–20th, the tantalising “Winter Feast” held in Princess Wharf 1 offers up a banquet of primordial food and drink, fashioned in fire and emphasising the hot coals and simplistic nature of meat and bread. With more information on the marques coming soon, this is a free event after the hours of 9pm and costs between $10–$20 before this time.


Between the 16th and 19th from 5­–10pm at ‘Dark Downtown’ in the Watchorn Street Car Park, the “Purging of the great ‘Ogoh-Ogoh’” will allow all to etch their fears on paper and commit them to the great deity. This year, appearing as a gigantic, shimmering green scarab (the ancient symbol of resurrection), everyone’s fears will be cast deep within the beetle, to be later purged in a ritual of renewal.


On the 20th between 5–6pm at the Regatta Grounds, the “Burning of the great ‘Ogoh-Ogoh’” will commence. This is the last rites of the beetle, turning inwards from the flames, allowing all to reflect on their fears that were purged throughout the week as they are finally committed to fire.


After the longest night, and at sunrise on the 22nd, the annual “Nude Solstice Swim” will allow those brave enough to venture into the icy waters of Long Beach, Sandy Bay, acknowledging the Winter Solstice and swim toward the light. This is a free event, but registrations have hit capacity already, so good luck to all those lucky enough to be involved.

Art Exhibitions

An integral part of every DARK MOFO is always its art exhibitions and installations located from The Museum of Old and New Art’s (Mona) to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG) and beyond. This year, with many Australian and even world exclusives, some new unique features will also be littered across the Hobart Waterfront and in buildings hidden out of sight.

"The spectra". Image from:

All Festival:

Throughout the festival, 'TMAG' will welcome a confronting exhibition titled “Paradise Lost” about Thomas Griffiths Wainewright – an alleged London serial killer suspected of poisoning multiple victims – who was eventually convicted of forgery and sent to Van Diemen’s Land in 1837. With works by Wainewright, Henry Fuseli, William Blake, Archipelago Productions, Titian, Rembrandt, Correggio, Raphael and Michelangelo, these painting push boundaries and beg the mind to wander.

The awe-inspiring “spectra” by Japanese artist Ryoji Ikeda will also run the length of the festival, situated again on the grounds of 'Mona' with the colossal beacon made up of 49 xenon searchlights beaming into the abyss of the night sky. Seen from hundreds of kilometres in all directions, you can get up close and personal from dusk between the 18th and 21st, with food and wine bars on the surrounds until 6:30pm each night.


Along the Hobart Waterfront, from the 16th­–20th between 6–8pm, Alex Podger delivers an intriguing public ritual, titled “Memorial”, that invites local Tasmanian residents to donate the ashes of their loved ones, projecting them into the air in a custom firework shell. Briefly painting the evening sky in a stunning glow, this is a tribute to human life and the contrast to the usual gravestones and plaques that consume natural space and remain for centuries.

The erection of DarkLab’s new Bell Tower in the Cathedral at 'In The Hanging Garden' will be the first of its kind in Hobart in nearly 100 years. The new bell tower will become the third of its kind in Tasmania, and the location will mark the festival home of our Patron Saint, Her Divine Holiness, Pope Alice. Curator Theia Connell brings “Pope Alice Close Encounters”, a dynamic nightly ceremony between 7–10pm on the 16th and, 5–10pm from the 17th–20th, embodying the Patron Saint’s mantra ‘love is the key’ and bestowing ancient ritualisms and maddening light and smoke shows.

At the Hobart Penitentiary between 5–11pm, two women showcase their unique visual and explicit take on incarceration, sexual violence and liberation in “The Trench”. Pauline Curnier Jardin breaks down Jean Genet’s provocative film, adopting a women’s perspective instead, as they empower themselves by killing the young men who ridiculed them. Additionally, Georgie Mattingley unveils a film inspired by her own time working in a high-security prison, showing off a dystopian world of power and punishment.

Again, from 5-11pm, Chinese artist Tianzhuo Chen will showcase a visually moving tale at the Black Temple Gallery centred around death and rebirth, under the title “The Dust”. Using farming tools and other relics endemic to Tibetan villages and burial grounds, the items take on a vastly different significance and are as far from being human as possible.

"The Patron Saint, Pope Alice". Image from:


“Nightwalks With Teenagers” is Canadian Darren O’Donnell’s travelling project as part of the ‘Mammalian Diving Reflex’ and is a social experiment so unique to the demographic. Meeting at Hobart Central Car Park between 7–9:30pm from the 17th–20th, local teens will become the tour guides, showing off Hobart’s energetic nocturnal landscapes and embracing the intergenerational aspect, allowing all to take the time to look inwards and reflect on the past. This is a recommended 18+ tour and costs $39+booking fee or $45 on arrival.


Sally Rees’s new exhibition “Crone” will feature for many months at Mona as of the 18th and will have viewers surrounded by a mysterious flock of what may appear to be birds. Upon closer inspection, these symbols are, in fact, animated portraits of aging women from Rees’s life – hence the crone analogy – and through the dark, they call to one another, their own sounds projected by plumes of brilliant colour.


For one night only on the 21st at 6pm on Hobart’s waterfront, a monumental display of fire and percussion will ring out over the Derwent on the longest night in “Thence We Came Forth to Rebehold the Stars”. From London-based drummer Gareth Brown, pyro artist Alex Podger, audio producer Benjamin Yellowitz and Stuart Bensley of Howard & Sons Fireworks comes a mix of thumping drum and bass and electrifying fire visuals that are inspired by Dante’s Inferno and everything chaos and crisis.

Dynamic and Static Installations

DARK MOFO 2019 saw “Dark Path” spiral its way from the city into the Royal Botanical Gardens and surroundings, but this year, locations will be much more clustered around central Hobart, with art exhibitions, live performances, bars and eateries dotted along Liverpool, Bathurst and Melville Street – between Murray and Harrington Street. Coined “Dark Downtown”, venues open at varying times between 5–11pm, from Wednesday the16th to Sunday the 20th.

Tour Group:

On the very first night of the festival, at 6pm on the 16th at the old K&D Car Park in Murray Street, the “Home State Reclamation Walk” invites all to be part of this important First Nations tribute, designed by Indigenous artists and leaders to follow them on a path of fire and smoke through a street overgrown by vegetation, where trees and bushes now reside.


As you move through the city, each recess encapsulates various forms of artwork and displays, of most importance, is the first traditional hut of its kind constructed by First Nations people since the colonial invasion of lutruwita, representing the story of Country. “Home State nipaluna” has a growing number of artists creating and filling the hut with stories, voices and objects, representing a unified space for mourning and community.

American artist Jonathan Schipper brings “Slow Room”, an always-changing installation that sees a quaint living room slowly pulled by strings into a small hole in the wall over the entire course of the festival. Through repeat viewings, the ultimate demise of the furniture can be observed, emphasising the slow change of the world around us, and that both creation and destruction are merely two sides of the same coin.

"Slow Room". Image from:

Light Show:

From Russia, artists Alexander Letcius and Kristina Karpysheva of ‘’ once again bring their stirring light performance titled “3.2”, which emphasises their own fascinations with death and the cosmos, as a gigantic chamber of light and smoke send acoustic and bodily vibrations through onlookers, tuning the senses into overdrive.


“The Character Ride” from the German project ‘Pictoplasma’, along with Japanese artists Akinori Oishi, is an interactive sculpture based on ‘Pictoplasma’ itself – the worldwide platform for contemporary character design – and with Oishi’s help, the strange character grins at you, making you feel uneasy, following with its eyes wherever you go.

Another sculptural display comes from Sri Lankan-born Sydney-based artist Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran with his “Earth Deities”, which are a series of false god figurines of varying proportion that will come to life as darkness descends in the forefront of fire, electricity and natural destruction.


“O Piexe” by Brazilian artists Jonathas de Andrade is a short film documenting fishermen from a village on Brazil’s remote northeast coast who carry out a ritual of embracing their catch, cradling the dying fish in an affectionate gesture that accompanies the passage of death. This is a testament to both species and the relationship between the two; one hunter and one hunted, both imbued with strength, violence and domination.

A compilation of VHS footage of the Kuwaiti oil fields ablaze during the aftermath of the First Gulf War is Monira Al Qadiri’s “Behind the Sun”, contrasting the nightmarish vistas of the arid desert with audio captured from Islamic television, visualising the divine through natural miracle.

A metaphor for the piercing power of gaze and the perceived window into the mind, Julie Rrap showcases “Double Eclipse”, the aptly named overhead video projection displaying Rrap’s own eyes slowly going blind – as if from a solar eclipse – leaving both the viewer and subject with a haunting image of blindness.

"Double Eclipse". Image from:

Musical Performances

If it’s music you want, then this year it is aplenty. With renowned headliners, thumping performances, sombre musical ensembles, genres to provoke your senses and encapsulating DJ sets, there are small concerts and large gathering each and every night; choose wisely.


On the first day of the festival, “X-Cathedra” at 'In The Hanging Garden' will open at 11am and run from the 16th–20th as the Cathedral is transformed into the hallowed ground of the Patron Saint, Pope Alice, with live performances and nightly blessings. In the late evening, from 10pm until late, resident DJs take over for the 18+ audience, so prepare to get sweaty and dance the night away.

In the evening of the 16th, from 8pm at Altar + High Altar, this 18+ spectacle delves into ritual offerings of smoke, loud noises and liminality that occupy downstairs, and above, coined ‘the goddess of serene chaos’, “{{black:rainbow}}” will bring their ethereal and stirring DJ set.

Over at the Odeon Theatre from 8pm, legendary experimental guitarist “Thurston Moore” – one of the founders of Sonic Youth – joins “The Dead C”, a New Zealand noise-rock three-piece hailed by Moore as one of the most interesting bands in the world. The band and musician come together for a night of unexpected, underground rock and improv that will leave you speechless and your ears ringing. This is an 18+ show, and tickets are $129+booking fee or can be purchased at the door for $135, subject to capacity.


At 6:30pm on the 17th at Altar, American composer Haley Fohr, along with assisting artists Shoeb Ahmad and Alex Albrecht, present “Music Box”. Fohr (more commonly known as “Circuit des Yeux”) plays and sings with an assortment of music boxes amassed over eighteen of her birthdays, modifying the melody turbines and delivering her signature mix of soft instrumental and haunting melancholic synths.

At 7pm in the Federation Concert Hall, acclaimed English composer Gavin Bryars performs with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra in a world premiere of his new work created during the pandemic lockdown. Featuring solo violist Morgan Goff, “A Hut in Toyama: Viola Concerto” is inspired by the Japanese book by Kamo-no-Chomei – with similar isolation themes – about living in a 10-foot-squared hut in the forests of Kyoto. This stirring performance is subject to capacity, with tickets from $49–59+booking fee or bought at the door from $55–65.

At the Odeon Theatre from 8pm, prepare your eardrums for a violating number of performances from four of Australia’s very own distinctive metal/thrash bands in an all-out destruction that’s guaranteed to get your heart racing. Sydney metal band “Lo!” will perform their complete album Vestigial, while “Injured Ninja” from Perth will give a dose of euphoric and abrasive rock. Hobart thrash punk locals “Threats” will be aggressive as usual, and the impending doom of “Drug Cult” from NSW will round out with their psychedelic haze.

"Lo!". Image from:


Beginning on the 17th and continuing until the 20th, the much-anticipated evening of debauchery and wild, all-out dancing is “Night Shift”. This year’s answer to what was ‘Night Mass’ at the last festival, these 18+ evenings begin at 10pm at Altar + High Altar, running all into the early hours of the morning, offering double-decker dance parties, electronic DJs, nocturnal artists and wacky installations that go bump in the night. A complete program list is set to come, and entrance fees are $20 at the door.


On the 18th at Altar from 6:30pm is bound to confuse all who attend. “Terminal Guitar” sees Marco Fusinato, Lisa MacKinney of ‘Mystic Eyes’ and Bruce Russell from ‘The Dead C’ perform an intangible mix of instruments with absolutely no limits nor mercy, in what is at best, indescribable.

At 7pm in the Federation Concert Hall, Gavin Byrars performs once again with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, ceremoniously gifting his famous orchestral lament “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet” in its 50th anniversary. Accompanied by pianist Andrea Keller, this Australian exclusive has tickets from $49–59+booking fee, or they can be bought at the door from $55–65.

Once again, “Thurston Moore” of Sonic Youth features at the Odeon Theatre from 7pm, except this time the post-punk legend is pairing with long-time collaborator and experimental electronic composer Jon Leidecker, or better known as “Wobbly”. This 18+ event is subject to capacity, and tickets are $129+booking fee or at the door for $135.

From 11pm, lasting well into the morning at the Odeon Theatre, Californian doom/stoner metal band “Om” will drench listeners in quizzical sounds of psychedelic rock, post-punk, Middle Eastern folk, with lyrics heavily influenced by spirituality and religion. This Australian exclusive is an 18+ concert, with tickets at $99+booking fee or door sales at $105.


On the 19th, another much-anticipated performance at the Odeon Theatre is this free 18+ event featuring a triple threat of massive artists ranging from Yolnu heritage, right here in Hobart and abroad. Beginning at 1pm in the early afternoon, headliners “Confidence Man” bring their unique, high-energy, eccentric dance-pop sounds, local punk legends “A. Swayze & the Ghosts” will have your heads bopping, and from ‘Yothu Yindi’ heritage, “King Stingray” launch into their unique indie rock and cultural influences to round out a day of terrific live music.

In the evening, at 6:30pm, “The Dead C” feature once more, bringing their unconventional instruments and blend of rock and improvisation to Altar, also introducing “Lucas Abela”, an interesting man who plays and makes music with sheets of glass in a similar way to a reed or woodwind instrument. This can only be seen to be believed, as the glass may not always play nice.

From 7pm, Haley Fohr of “Circuit des Yeux” once again performs her vocally stirring composition unaccompanied at the Federation Concert Hall, this time traversing her octaval melancholic meditative dark folk, with tickets from $49–59+booking fee, or $55-65 at the door.

“Screams from the Abyss” begins at the Odeon Theatre from 8pm and is as dark and ferocious as it comes. This 18+ concert showcases all that is metal, and the savagery that follows will not be for the faint-hearted. Both “Misery” and “The Amenta” showcase their dissonant death metal, while “Altar Defecation” launch into their signature black metal set. Additionally, “Pod People” and “Growth” blast destructive sounds with dense, claustrophobic narratives and these niche sounds are likely to attract significant crowds. Tickets are $59+booking fee or $65 at the door.

"Altar Defecation". Image from:


On the 20th, Altar hosts a fierce duo of independent female artists from 7pm, as Melbourne singer-songwriter “Grace Cummings” weaves her early-‘60s folk with guttural vocals, acoustic guitar and harmonica, while lead singer of Tasmanian post-punk duo ‘Native Cats’, “Chloe Alison Escott”, tones it down from her usual energetic style, playing a stripped-back piano set from her debut solo album ‘Stars Under Contract’.

At the same time, over at the Federation Concert Hall, prepare for the solstice with “Solstice Eve”, a collection of ambient, experimental sounds that, for many hours, will entertain and inspire. “Tangents” are a drum-heavy, eccentric electronic production that uses cello and piano tones, while “Wobbly” improvises with psychedelic sounds from machines that listen. “Sens Dep” create unique, textured noise with sonic ruminations, and “Monica Brooks” fascinates with hypnotic, moving, improvised piano. Tickets are from $49–$59+booking fee or purchased at the door from $55–$65.

At the Odeon Theatre from 9pm, an eclectic mix of post-everything musicians and bands take to the stage. “Black Cab” brings their ‘70s and ‘80s-inspired psychedelic Krautrock and driving electronica, ‘Arcade Fire’ member “Jeremy Gara” goes solo with a spectacular light show and accompanying transient noise, while local post-punk legends “Slag Queens” throw down their classic patriarchy-burning lyrics with thrashing drums and chords.

"Slag Queens". Image from:


From 10pm on the 21st until 6am on the 22nd at Hobart City Hall, the “All Saints Compline Choir” will perform a durational and enduring feat of Gregorian chanting and harmonic music reminiscent of the last 600 years. Across the evening and into the early hours of the morning, “Towards a Great Silence” demonstrates the leadership of Nick Caddick and the ‘All Saints Choir’ of South Hobart as they sing in a classic liturgical style, and visitors will be free to come and go at suitable times within the eight-hour performance.

Cover image credit to:

Copyright © Will Boddy 2021

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