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Shock! Horror! It must be Dark Mofo!

This year it's about fire and crosses

It’s cold. It gets dark at 4.30 and it looks like rain but David Walsh, father of Mona has done it again, abruptly drawing us out of our comfort zone, both physically and mentally. Last year it was the public butchering of a bull which caused outrage, though no doubt it goes on out of sight in our abattoirs every day. This year it is the emphasis on crosses – the lurid red upside down ones in the city and the burning ones at Dark Park.  Mike Parr, the performance artist who last year occupied the Royal Derwent Mental Hospital, has this year had himself buried underground in Macquarie Street (one of Hobart’s main arteries) for three days. I am pleased to hear that he has a heater and a thermos as a Hobart winter is cold enough without spending it underground.

A blaze of torches greets us at the solar cross

We – that is my daughter and her temporarily extended family and I, braved the elements last night to explore Dark Park.  Fire in various forms warmed our hearts and souls from the giant bonfire to the leaping flames of the solar cross – symbol of the most ancient pagan religion, to the braziers found all around the venue. The good thing about coming out tonight was that the queues were not as long, though from all reports attendances have already exceeded all previous Dark Mofos. We walked the Solar Cross and then headed indoors for the puppet show and a look at this year’s Ogah Ogah. Arachnophobes beware. This year’s Ogah Ogah is a giant cave spider and the puppet show by the Terrapin theatre features a spider too. Real live cave spiders “grow as big as a dinner plate.”  I’d taken seven- year -old Bliss to see the puppet show, but after only a few minutes, she's ready to leave. “I’d rather go back to Mum” she said apprehensively. Dark Mofo is about confronting our fears.

The Ogah Ogah - this year a giant Cave Spider - greets us at the end of the shed. The idea is is to write down your fears and regrets and put them in the Ogah Ogah's egg sacs to be consumed by the flames when Dark Mofo ends

The bars were well attended – something to do with the weather I suspect, and many were enjoying the live music. A freezing rain began to fall as we reluctantly ventured outside again.  It didn’t help that we soon discovered several giant puddles as we stumbled about in the dark. Nevertheless, we eventually we found ourselves mesmerised by United Visual Artists’ “Musical Universalis” - glowing orbs moving rhythmically to a musical score and resulting in a kind of ballet of the planets. If you can't visit the venue, you really ought to click on the site to see this as my small camera didn't do much for it.

Even further away at the far northern end of the park, we arrived at Matthew Schreiber’s “Leviathan,” an enormous mazelike web spun out of laser beams, where we also spent some time. 
As we emerged we could just see the giant cross at the centre of the Sun Cross catching fire and illuminating the sky. This was another source of controversy as burning crosses have long been associated with the evil deeds of the Ku Klux Klan in the USA. However, as with the upside down crosses, their story is much more complex than this. Their use can be dated to at least a millennium earlier and they were also popular among the Scots to call together their clan members to defend themselves against others.

Losing ourselves in Matthew Schreiber's laser maze

As my daughter remarked,” I may not like every exhibit, but you have to admire David Walsh for bringing original and experimental work to Tasmania.” Speaking of confronting ideas, on our way out I notice the Submissive Hair Salon. Mistress Germaine and Master Bartholomew stop their busy schedule of gentle spanking or tying people’s hands to have a little chat. I just know people are going to go on about this too, but really, even the seven year old thought it was hilarious and definitely a very novel way to get your hair done. It comes with a beer, a G and T or a glass of wine too, but it is rather expensive. Hope conservative Hobart lightens up enough to appreciate it.

Fancy a bit of gentle S and M and maybe a a glass of wine with your hair cut? Mistress Germaine and Master Bartholomew are happy to offer all three at their Submissive Hair Salon

There are many more exhibits and shows (see the full program here)– some of them such as Tim Minchin’s, have been booked out months before, but the rain is coming down hard now and at least one of the little girls is getting tired.  As I drag my wet feet towards the exit, my only complaints are how far away the parking is – no shuttle buses this year, and how big the puddles are. I hope those two issues will be dealt with next year, especially as Dark Mofo gets bigger and bigger.

Some of the offerings at the Submissive Hair Salon