From Wholesome to Hedonistic: A Guide to Dark Mofo 2023 According to the Level of Chaos You're After
Keen on the sunnier, sweeter side of this year's lineup? Prefer letting loose and making "when at Dark Mofo" your mantra? Find your ultimate itinerary here.
May 03, 2023
It arrives in the dead of winter. It fills Hobart with festivalgoers in the dark of night. It gets the brave donning nothing but their birthday suits to take a dip for the winter solstice. For ten fests now, with Tasmania's Museum of Old and New Art at the helm, Dark Mofo has unleashed its wildest and weirdest delights upon the Apple Isle — its most sinister, surprising, challenging and stunning as well — and tempted arts lovers Australia-wide and beyond to the nation's southernmost state.
Don't just think of Dark Mofo as the twisted sibling to Tasmania's other big annual festival, summer's Mona Foma, though. Running from Thursday, June 8–Thursday, June 22 in 2023, this event adores the space where opposites clash: dark and light, birth and death, all things wholesome and hedonistic included. That's what makes it the kind of Tassie getaway where you can slumber while listening to an eight-and-a-half-hour lullaby, see garbage turned into musical instruments, then wander into a theatre-meets-rave performance and witness Dante's journey through hell, purgatory and paradise come to life.
Keen on the sunnier, sweeter side of this year's lineup? Prefer letting loose and making "when at Dark Mofo" your mantra? There's an event on the 2023 program for you either way, and no matter what level of chaos you're after — and after asking the Dark Mofo team for their tips on both sides of the spectrum, we've put together this handy guide.
Concrete Playground Trips' Dark Mofo accommodation package might come in helpful, too. And, while some of these events are sold out at the time of writing, keep a keen eye on the fest's resales for more tickets.
There's no doubting that Dark Mofo knows how to throw a party. That's the entire festival from start to finish, as well as many of its events from its first moments each year to its last. But there's nothing like a massive opening-night celebration — especially when that shindig showcases and celebrates First Nations culture and talent, as The Gathering does.
On 2023's bill: Palawa and mainland Indigenous artists, all taking over In The Hanging Garden from 6.30pm–12am on Thursday, June 8. When you're not listing to BARKAA's energetic tunes and Tasman Keith's synth-scored raps, you'll be enjoying dameeeela's mixes, DENNI's vocals, and MARLON X RULLA's R&B and hip hop. Kartanya + KARAI are joining forces for a performance that blends poetry and music, Rob Braslin will do a stand-up set and Lutruwita / Tasmanian Aboriginal Elder Uncle Dougie Mansell will play music inspired by the state.
And, in a partnership with Melbourne's YIRRAMBOI, Kin heroes cross-cultural connections between Victoria's Koorie and Tasmania's Palawa peoples.
MAX RICHTER'S SLEEP
For some party people at Dark Mofo — many, even — spending all night at the festival doesn't involve getting any shuteye. But hitting the hay is definitely a part of this year's fest. Actually, Dark Mofo wants you to wear your pyjamas and sleep over.
The slumber party comes courtesy of Max Richter's SLEEP, which returns to Australia for an eight-and-a-half-hour overnight stint on Wednesday, June 14 (and heads to Tasmania as an Aussie exclusive). You'll close your eyes, drift off to the land of nod and Richter's compositions will play as you snooze. The forty-winks part will happen on beds provided by Dark Mofo, while the latter is based on the neuroscience of having a kip.
If you've seen the documentary about it, you'll already be excited — and you'll have your PJs ready.
ZINDZI & THE ZILLIONAIRES
There's a bear on Dark Mofo's 2023 program. There's also an actor and musician that usually appears on-screen to entertain the festival's youngest attendees after a song about chairs, games and stories gets a spin. That'd be Zindzi, one of Play School's beloved hosts, who joins the fest lineup with The Zillionaires, her fluffy sidekicks.
This concert is firmly for kids — and the adults taking them along, with children under two admitted free. If you're making the visit to Tassie with your family, Zindzi's two daytime sets on Sunday, June 11 (at 12pm and 2.30pm) are prime all-ages fun.
Venturing to Dark Mofo from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Fulu Miziki won't just entertain you with their Afro-futurist-punk sounds. That's a given; however, they'll also make you think twice about what you discard. As you watch them play, they'll be making music with garbage — which they've turned into musical instruments.
There are two parts to Fulu Miziki's Dark Mofo stint. The experimental workshop on Sunday, June 11 will teach a few lucky folks how to follow in the collective's footsteps with their own refuse and reclaimed materials, complete with a concert afterwards. And, the day prior on Saturday, June 10, Fulu Miziki will also be taking to the Odeon Theatre stage.
This isn't just a family-friendly part of Dark Mofo — it's eco-friendly as well.
WITHOUT US YOU WOULD HAVE NEVER LEARNT ABOUT LOVE
When we said before that there's a bear in Dark Mofo's 2023 program, we were referring to Giant Teddy, a towering Korean pop culture-inspired teddy bear that has lasers for eyes, plus a camera that'll show its live surveillance elsewhere in Hobart. But you can also expect to see stuffed toys at Without Us You Would Have Never Learnt About Love — because it makes an operatic tragedy with repurposed playthings.
Artist Jason Phu is behind this creative use of jailbroken toys, and will have them performing inside a taoist robotic shrine. If it sounds like the kind of thing that you don't see every day, it truly is.
Checking it out is free, and as simple as heading to the Baha'i Centre from 4–10pm between Thursday, June 8–Monday, June 12 and Wednesday, June 14–Sunday, June 18.
Winter Feast is all about tucking into local produce by the fire while listening to tunes and just generally enjoying an evening of revelry. One of Dark Mofo's annual highlights, it returns for 2023 across eight nights — running from Thursday, June 8–Sunday, June 11, then again from Thursday, June 15–Sunday, June 18, at Salamanca Lawns and Princes Wharf Shed 1 — with 90 stallholders setting up by the feast's blazes.
Headlining the 2023 event is an acclaimed culinary name: Ana Roš, who you might know from Netflix documentary Chef's Table. She's the owner of Slovenia's two Michelin-starred restaurant Hiša Franko in Kobarid, and was named the world's best female chef by The World's 50 Best Restaurants academy in 2017. The World Tourism Organisation have also given her the title Ambassador of Gastronomic Tourism.
At Dark Mofo, Roš will get cooking in a newly built 50-seat structure just for cooking and dining, and she'll have company: Stephen Peak and Rodney Dunn, both from New Norfolk's The Agrarian Kitchen. Their spread is set to span four courses, taking its cues from the dishes that that Roš and Peak whip up in their own kitchens. So, expect Slovenian-inspired fare, but made with Tasmania's top seasonal produce.
Slipping into a different mindset is just part of being at Dark Mofo. At TRANCE, you're openly invited to slide into a reverie in the process. Hailing from Berlin-based Chinese artist Tianzhuo Chen, this three-day performance from Thursday, June 8–Saturday, June 10 isn't just something that you watch — it's a true festival experience.
You'll need to purchase a 'trance pass' to head along, which gives you access to the whole show across its run. Then, you can wander in and out as you like, seeing each day's 12-hour ritual — which is batched up in six two-hour chapters — in what's basically a physical theatre-meets-rave show.
Along the way, you'll notice nods to religious iconography and pop culture alike — and Butoh choreography as well — as things get psychedelic and transcendental. You'll also spot Tinazhuo's cast of characters go all-in on testing the body's corporeal limits.
A DIVINE COMEDY
A wild dance theatre performance inspired by Dante's The Divine Comedy? Yes, that sounds completely in Dark Mofo's wheelhouse. That production is A Divine Comedy, hailing from Austrian choreographer and performance artist Florentina Holzinger, and hitting the festival from Friday, June 16–Sunday, June 18 as both an Australian premiere and an Aussie exclusive.
Holzinger is known for making challenging and provocative theatre, and for exploring gender relations — including how women's bodies are represented in art and media. For A Divine Comedy, she's staging the whole dive into the hell, purgatory and paradise as a giant autopsy room, all to explore how humans negotiate life and death.
From an all-female-identifying cast spanning all ages, as well as a variety of physical, musical and athletic disciplines, expect to see nude performers, slapstick acts, bodily substances and references to slasher movies as well — plus a jam-packed selection of nods to art and dance's respective histories.
THE BLUE ROSE BALL
Get ready for a ball both wonderful and strange: Dark Mofo's hedonistic masquerade, which this year is called The Blue Rose Ball. David Lynch fans, this sounds like absolute heaven — and it is indeed inspired by the inimitable filmmaker behind Twin Peaks. The event takes its name from a secret task force in that very show, in fact, which you'll already know if you agree that it's the best show ever made (as you should).
On Wednesday, June 7, a mystery venue will play host to cocktails, wines, aperitifs and epicurean provisions. Exactly what will happen from there is set to be revealed on the night — having your expectations challenged Lynch-style is part of the fun, of course — but if your costume includes red and white zigzags, you've obviously nailed it.
Fancy getting a Lynch-meets-Dark Mofo fix throughout the rest of fest? From Thursday, June 8–Monday, June 12 and Wednesday, June 14–Sunday, June 18, Dark Park will also play host to a Blue Velvet Lounge, and with live tunes and performances all on theme.
If you love wild affairs that run late into the evening, it's time to lose yourself to Night Mass. Anything and everything can and does happen at this after-dark affair, which is sprawling wider in 2023 than usual — taking over three city blocks, and naming the space District X.
Within the precinct's confines, there'll be 13 stages hosting a hefty list of acts, all in an area with a capacity of 4500 — with Night Mass taking place over five nights across two weekends. Those dates: Friday, June 9–Sunday, June 11, and then Friday, June 16–Saturday, June 17. On offer: everything from music and cocktail lounges through to punk theatre and junkyard raves.
Attendees can also expect art, performances, cinema cabarets, games arcades, tarot readings, plenty of places to eat and drink, and fire beacons lighting the way. And, on the bill, folks such as Desire Marea, dameeeela, Amnesia Scanner, Violent Magic Orchestra and Mahne Frame, as well as Ms Boogie, Prison Religion, Pelada, Marie Davidson and Moktar.
Top image: Dark Mofo/Jesse Hunniford, 2018. Image of Société Anonyme Costume Ball Hadley's Orient Hotel. Image Courtesy Dark Mofo, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.
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