The Power of Light and Other Themes

The month of June in this part of the Southern Hemisphere is important for two reasons; firstly its the approach of the Winter Solstice and secondly and most importantly it’s time for Dark Mofo.

Dark Mofo, Mona’s ( Museum Of Old and New Art ) winter festival, delves into centuries-old winter solstice rituals, exploring the links between ancient and contemporary mythology, humans and nature, religious and secular traditions, darkness and light, and birth, death and renewal. Dark Mofo 2019 runs 14-23 June across Hobart and surrounds.

So as I was thinking about this post I wanted to take a peek at new developments out at The Museum Of Old and New Art, the matriarch, if you like for the whole MONA / Dark Mofo meal deal. So I’m presenting earthly delights and recipes that have been mixed for us by the creative team that was Dark Mofo and a brief look at the phenomenon that is MONA and how it connects.

A visit to MONA and the museum environment compared to other more traditional museum’s leaves the visitor under no illusion. This building is different, built above and below ground nestled amongst a natural sandstone escarpment and divided into shapes and spaces connected by a maze of steps, stairs, tunnels and walkways.

This is deliberate of course. It’s all about the light and darkness, an attack on the viewer’s sensory perception and spatial awareness. Let’s be frank here, MONA is probably not for everyone. The owner David Walsh and his creative Director Leigh Carmichael favour the ancient themes of death, sex and darkness which is subtly inserted into your consciousness as your played by these myths and the cleverly curated exhibitions as your led from space to space.

The naughty bits are still there, life’s vices and private pleasures nestled around dark corners to shock or surprise.

It’s quite refreshing really not just standing in a sterile space pondering at a piece hanging on a wall or mounted on a pedestal trying to work it all out.

That’s not to say the collection is all about these themes only, you can still see Whiteley, Nolan, Boyd and Tucker’s works here, slotted in amongst others, leading you with your little headset from one space to the next.

The best bit’s are the new works by the likes of James Turrell, James Ross and Richard Wilsons 20:50.

Never heard of these gentlemen and their work? Neither had I. These artists have been working on a scale most foreign to us in Australia. Turrell has sculpted whole crater in Arizona and Ross’s Star Axis in the New Mexico desert is all about the boundary between earth and sky and sits on a mesa.

What has this to do with Mona and Dark Mofo you ask? Its all about about the experience of the large uninhibited outdoor gallery. The displays of colour, darkness and light of the exhibitions on buildings and public space is intermingled with the things us poor souls go weak at the knees for like, drink, music, food, and a shared complete body experience.

Walking the semi darkness of the Hobart streets with other Brethren paying homage to the Winter Solstice is an adventure of anticipation. It’s exhibitions and sideshows are littered with red crosses up the right way this time and a city bathed in a subtle glow of red light. We are left under no illusion, this is a giant installation that takes up a complete city CBD and engages with patrons in way we never thought possible 20 years ago. Lurking in the shadows I was intrigued at the ritual process of people taking in the Dark Path winding up to the Botanical Gardens and the Winter feast, with associated displays and heaps of local offerings to tempt our pallets and apetites.

This yearly event that encompasses the city of Hobart and its massive outdoor gallery is an experience like no other, and its creators and designers are grappling with other issues now. The event has become so popular the infrastructure is groaning, so now everyone is thinking what’s next and how do you maintain the momentum the franchise has taken on. The event has taken most by surprise and is a huge economic drawcard for the State of Tasmania.

Granted it’s not every one cup of tea, but there is something for everyone. So the message is don’t stop, if it’s not your thing, stay at home and watch the telly while the rest of us shake of the darkness of mid winter with an experience we are getting quite used to.

The State is becoming a ‘Festival’ destination and is shaking off the traditional and conservative reputation of times past having shouldered a new responsibility of leading the way with arts based tourism and cultural events. These are becoming the focus and envy of our northern neighbours who are not used to being pushed aside when it comes to the arts. This is down to one person, Mr David Walsh and the brand MONA.

He and his team are required to manage a complex set of relationships between, State and Local Governments and the sensibilities of a number of local organisations to maintain this large public canvas. The event and it’s off-shoots are a gift to Tasmania, a State struggling to become relevant in the Arts scene against the cosmopolitan capitals like Sydney and Melbourne. Be sure to visit both Mona as its a pre-requisite to understanding the mindset behind Mona and it’s winter festival Dark Mofo.

Mike Briggs, DarkMofo June 2019, Hobart Tasmania.

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