MONA, MONA FOMA, MOFO, DARK MOFO … They all mean the one thing: to push the boundaries of thinking, to be part of an organic ooze of creative chaos that meanders and morphs as a chameleon of unpredictability.
A visit to the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart coincided by fate with a major exhibition opening, Marina Abramović’s Private Archaeology. That coincidence extended to stumbling into Dark Mofo, MONA’s dark, winter festival.
MONA has a summer festival too, the Festival of Music and Art (FOMA), and MONA FOMA is also known as MOFO. Considering the meaning of Mofo in urban slang, MONA, MOFO and Dark Mofo invoke an ideal of attitude, challenge and edgy grit, of the avant-garde and slap-in-the-face sassiness.
At MONA, many would be uncomfortable when confronted with the wall of vaginas and offended by the smell that exudes from the installation that replicates the human digestive system to ultimately excrete faeces. Some question the validity as art. But art is a subjective appreciation. Art is a quality, production, expression or realm according to aesthetic principles of what appeals or is in some way, outside of the realm of ordinary in significance. More questions there though – what’s ordinary and what’s of significance?
Ultimately, we all have our own ideals or principles of what appeals, whether we know that consciously or not.
My experience being encapsulated in the binary room at MONA is mine alone. Being in the centre of this room surrounded by computer language that is the back end of all computer functioning, in a way connected me to computers. It was as if I was in the ‘brain’ of the computer, especially when I looked up and saw my reflection hanging upside-down as a bat. I knew when I reached for the wall to steady my balance that something had struck a chord within.
And then the performing artist, Marina Abramović and her exhibition … a scream room, a film of people finding their way blind-folded by water and another depicting the growing tension between two people pulling at a bow and arrow led me to uncover a new set of aesthetics. To finish off the exhibition with the counting rice inter-active exhibit in a quiet sea of white, sitting at a long table counting rice surrounded by the hum of a crowd outside, allowed for an uplifting calm to settle the excitement and experiments in thinking.
As for Dark Mofo, I would never have imagined that being submerged in a bath of bass sounds would be as sublime as what I experienced. The program introduced Bass Bath at Dark Park as, ‘Prepare to receive the sacrament of sound. Enter the circle of doom, drone and eight 2100 horsepower monolithic subwoofers.’ And yet in the darkness of atmospheric fog that at first made me gasp, my heart pounded to dip into the rhythm and become part of the drone. With a light sequence synchronised to the sound, my body hovered in a vibrational alchemy.
Crowds gathered and included many families. Queues grew, although I never felt smothered by a mass of people. Those queues simply added another layer as it meant meeting and chatting to strangers that enjoyed too, the excitement of seeing those boundaries pushed, where everything was okay and acceptable, glances that lingered, alternatives of norm … all was as it was meant to be and we were free to be amongst thinking that was free and without judgement.
Dark Mofo finished on the Southern Hemisphere’s Winter Solstice. That saw the Ogoh-ogoh, a Balinese Hinduism demon-like sculpture crafted to hold fears of festival-goers, carried to its ceremonial cremation as a form of mass purification.
Finally at sunrise, Dark Mofo ended with a nude swim in 11°C (51°F) waters.
As a gorgeous, dark-haired performance artist and I discussed while queuing for the ferry to take us from MONA to Hobart, we may believe our thinking is off-beat or left-of-centre and feel unsure because of that, but in a world of billions of people, we aren’t alone in our thinking.
In the end, ‘The things you are passionate about are not random, they are your calling.’ Fabienne Fredrickson.
Here’s to Dark Mofo 2016, and the nude swim I won’t miss.