Where "Art Meets Life"
Assessing the Impact of Dark Mofo, A New Mid-Winter Festival in Australia
In Hobart, a litany of winter festivals flopped and failed until the arrival of Mona (Museum of Old and New Art), a private museum owned by mathematician, successful online gambler, and autodidact David Walsh. Since 2013, its new festival, Dark Mofo, not only has reignited long-somnolent traditions of midwinter festival imaginaries among its postcolonial society but also has proved to be an effective vehicle for galvanizing an all-of-community form of urban activation, engagement, and regeneration. It has also completely overwhelmed the city with visitors keen to participate in a no-holds-barred ritual week with major global artists and musicians keen to be on its carnivalesque platforms. While Mona has explored grotesque realism themes of sex, death, and the body in its darkened, labyrinthine and subterranean levels, Dark Mofo has permitted their mix of carnivalesque and Dionysian metaphors and embodied practices/politics to take over the entire city in a week of programmatic mischief and misrule at midwinter. Research by an Australian Research Council–funded study of Mona and its festive register will be used to account for its origins and innovation as well as its social, cultural, and economic composition and impact.