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Creatures of the Night 2 – Into the Forest

The Waterfront seems quieter than usual
The crowds were there. The red crosses were there. Businesses were open. The aroma of sizzling steak filled the air, yet it seemed to me that Dark Mofo was neither as big nor as shocking as in previous years. Not that there wasn’t some gratuitous violence or exhibits which made you shudder, but Dark Park remained  dark and the kind of events which usually took place there, were either confined to strictly limited crowds inside the former Forestry building or scattered about across other venues including the Domain and the Botanic Gardens, but more about that later.   For now, a little about “A forest.”

Into a forest......

We approached “A forest” with some trepidation. We were issued with earplugs on the way in and were warned about the possibility of experiencing depictions of violence before entering the Virtual Reality segment. With sudden thunderous noise, inexplicable exhibits and frightening images, it was rather like an adult horror show. It would have greatly helped if there had been some signage as to meaning or point. What, I wondered was the artistic merit or social purpose of watching random empty petrol drums implode? Or why was a bowl of fruit attached to a Geiger counter? Was it trying to say something about irradiated fruit? 

"Song of the Phenomena" by Chris Henschke uses a particle accelerator and a Geiger counter to make music from decomposing fruit

Though the sound and sight of a ticking Geiger counter itself evokes dread, this wasn't as threatening as it looked

Reading up on it later, I at least discovered that there was nothing sinister about the fruit. The Geiger counter registers the natural radiation in fruit and turns it into sound. Who says cabbages can’t scream? The Virtual Reality segment by Jordan Wolfson was shocking. People came away dazed as if they had been assaulted, yet without any kind of explanation you were simply left to wonder.  Steven Rhall’s “Air Dancer as a Black Body” which popped up at random, was also probably scary enough without the subsequent explanation that it is the way white people interpret black bodies.  

A private horror - Jordan Wolfson's "Real Violence" virtual reality experience

Steven Rhall's "Black Air Dancer " made the occasional alarming appearance in response to movement

Michael Candy's "Cryptid" robotic insect-like creature moves slowly around the floor -

Meagan Streader's "Slow Rise" uses refracted light

Imploding oil drums ? Apart from the sudden unexpected noise, I didn't see the point of this installation at all

There was more. We didn't even get to see the second virtual reality segment because the queues were too long. The one I understood least however, and which may have been a blessing because it embodied so much suffering, was the poetry written and spoken by 100 imprisoned  poets “For, in your tongue I cannot fit” by Shilpa Gupta. Unfortunately, for me it just looked like a thicket of microphones emitting a doleful chorus and I  came away confused and vaguely dissatisfied, but still, that is the aim of Dark Mofo, to challenge and confront.  This year it seems to be less about public spectacle, but more about private anguish.