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From a 'Twin Peaks'-Inspired Ball to a Giant Teddy with Laser Eyes, Dark Mofo's 2023 Lineup Is Ready to Dazzle

Soda Jerk's latest film, Black Flag's first Aussie gig since 2013, an overnight sleepover with Max Richter — they're all coming to Tasmania's must-attend winter fest.
By Sarah Ward
March 31, 2023
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By Sarah Ward
March 31, 2023
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When winter arrives in Australia, the nation copes with the cold by heading out of the house and into a heap of stunning arts festivals. That's true in Sydney, with Vivid hitting just as the weather gets frosty. It's also the case in Melbourne, all thanks to RISING. But there's something extra enticing about Dark Mofo — perhaps because it's an excuse for mainlanders to head to Tasmania, and also because it always delivers a program filled with weird and wild surprises.

Run by Tasmania's Museum of Old and New Art — the venue's winter festivities, with sibling event Mona Foma happening in summer — this is an arts celebration where anything truly can occur. In 2023, on the just-dropped full program, that includes a Twin Peaks-inspired ball, a teddy bear with laser eyes, sleeping over, catching Soda Jerk's latest film and seeing punk icons Black Flag play their first Aussie gig since 2013.

Teddy | Dark Mofo 2023. Courtesy of the artist and Dark Mofo.

A haven for shows, gigs and installations of the dark, sinister, confronting and boundary-pushing variety, Dark Mofo unveiled its first 2023 highlight back in January — and with Florentina Holzinger's dance theatre performance  A Divine Comedy, an Australian premiere and an Aussie exclusive that reimagines Dante's classic examination of hell, purgatory and paradise, it set itself a high bar. Just from the aforementioned events, the complete program is set to match, all taking place in Hobart between Thursday, June 8–Thursday, June 22.

That ball both wonderful and strange? That'd be Dark Mofo's hedonistic masquerade, which this year is called The Blue Rose Ball. David Lynch fans, this sounds like heaven — in a mystery venue turned into the Blue Velvet Lounge, and with live tunes and performances all on theme. If your costume includes red and white zigzags, you've obviously nailed it.

Nicole Marianna Wytyczak

That teddy bear? It's called Giant Teddy, a new commission by Dark Mofo from EJ Son. Festival attendees will see a giant Korean pop culture-inspired teddy bear that, yes, has lasers for eyes — plus a camera that'll show its live surveillance elsewhere in Hobart.

The sleepover comes courtesy of Max Richter's SLEEP, which returns to Australia for an eight-and-a-half-hour overnight stint. You'll slumber, and Richter's compositions will play. The former will happen on beds provided by Dark Mofo, and the latter is based on the neuroscience of getting some shuteye. And if you've seen the documentary about it, you'll already be excited — and have your pyjamas ready.

Zan Wimberley. Courtesy of the artist and Dark Mofo, Nipaluna/Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.

Soda Jerk joins the fold with Hello Dankness, which compiles samples into a 70-minute survey of American politics circa 2016–21 — so, a chaotic time. And Black Flag won't have Henry Rollins with them, but will be doing a one-off exclusive Australian show in Tassie.

Other highlights from founder and Creative Director Leigh Carmichael's final program, of which there's a treasure trove, include Richter also doing two other performances, large-scale light-and-sound installation Silent Symphony, the jailbroken musical toys of Jason Phu's Without Us You Would Have Never Learnt About Love, and 1974 experimental time-lapse film The Text of Light paired with an improvised live soundtrack by Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth with Alan Licht and Ulrich Krieger.

Drab Majesty | Dark Mofo 2023. Image courtesy of the artist and Dark Mofo.

The music bill also features First Nations artists BARKAA, Tasman Keith, dameeeela, DENNI, MARLON X RULLA, Uncle Dougie Mansell, Katarnya Maynard, Rob Braslin and more on opening night; Ethel Cain hitting Australia for the first time; Thundercat breaking out the bass; and Witch with Dinosaur Jr's J Mascis on the drums. Squarepusher, Trentemøller, Drab Majesty, Plaid, Sleaford Mods, Deafheaven — yes, the list goes on, with Zindzi & The Zillionaires, as led by Play School host Zindzi Okenyo, also on offer for younger attendees.

Dark Mofo's arts lineup spans two new pieces by Martu artist Curtis Taylor: video work Ngarnda (pain) about blood rituals, cultural rites and lived experiences; and multi-media installation Boong, which focuses on exposing racial violence. And, there's Western Flag from Irish talent John Gerrard — aka a ten-metre-by-ten-metre digital screen depicting a flagpole, but spewing out black smoke non-stop, in a reference to the world's first major oil find in Texas in 1901.

Trentemøller | Dark Mofo 2023. Courtesy of the artist and Dark Mofo.

Alongside the masquerade, other adored Dark Mofo rituals returning to the program range from the Winter Feast and art hub Dark Park through to final-night fire The Burning and, of course, the Nude Solstice Swim.

It's no wonder that the fest has a hefty list of venues playing host, then, including the Odeon Theatre, In The Hanging Garden, Altar, Federation Concert Hall, Princes Wharf 1, MAC2 and the Goods Shed. Festivalgoers will also be hitting up MyState Bank Arena, the Baha'i Centre, Hobart Town Hall, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Contemporary Art Tasmania, Good Grief Studios, Plimsoll Gallery and Hobart Library — plus Long Beach in Sandy Bay.

Dark Mofo/Rosie Hastie, 2021. Image Courtesy Dark Mofo, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.

Dark Mofo 2023 runs from Thursday, June 8–Thursday, June 22 in Hobart, Tasmania, with subscriber tickets on sale from 12pm AEST on Wednesday, April 5 and general tickets from 2pm AEST Wednesday, April 5.

Top images: Winter Feast, Dark Mofo 2022. Photo credit: Rémi Chauvin, 2022. Image courtesy of Dark Mofo 2022. // Dark Park | Dark Mofo. // Ethel Cain | Dark Mofo 2023. Photo credit: Helen Kirbo. Image courtesy of the artist and Dark Mofo. // Western Flag | Dark Mofo 2023. Image courtesy of the artist and Dark Mofo.

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Published on March 31, 2023 by Sarah Ward
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