MONA FOMA (an acronym for Museum of Old and New Art: Festival Of Music and Art, often further shortened to MOFO) is an annual music and arts festival held in January in Launceston, Tasmania, Australia, curated by Violent Femmes member Brian Ritchie. It is billed as Tasmania's largest contemporary music festival and showcases the work of artists in a broad range of art forms, including sound, noise, dance, theatre, visual art, performance and new media. A wintertime version of the festival, Dark MOFO, is held annually in June. Its events are mainly shown at nighttime.
MONA FOMA was established in 2008 by the Museum of Old and New Art, Ritchie and the Salamanca Arts Centre. The first festival was held the following year and headlined by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. In 2010, Ritchie initiated EAR (Eminent Artist in Residence) program and John Cale became the festival's first EAR and the second festival headliner.
Dark Mofo is the winter version of the MONA FOMA festival. With many of its events taking place at night, it celebrates the darkness of the southern winter solstice and features many musical acts, large scale light installations and a winter feast. Due to its pagan influence and darker themes, it has been aligned with the Tasmanian Gothic aesthetic in literature and art.
The first Dark Mofo festival was held in 2013 and featured Ryoji Ikeda's 15-kilometre-high light installation Spectra, now a permanent fixture at MONA. The first year also introduced the now annual nude solstice swim that sees over one thousand people dunk in the River Derwent at dawn on the shortest day of the year. Initially the nude swim was banned by police, however the support of politicians and the general public ended with it proceeding and Hobart's mayor Damon Thomas taking part. It has been speculated that this was in fact part of a complicated bet by MONA owner David Walsh, who made his fortune gambling.
The event has courted controversy since its inception, and interstate visitors have noted how different it is to health and safety-obsessed mainland festivals, with one writer calling Dark Mofo "the festival Sydney wouldn't allow." During the inaugural festival, seven people were hospitalised after suffering seizures during Kurt Hentschlager's ZEE, a light installation described as "psychedelic architecture". The exhibit was briefly shut down by the Hobart health authorities. In 2016, a series of artworks were taken down after local art students complained. 2017 saw animal rights activists protest Hermann Nitsch's 150.Action performance piece during which participants writhe in the entrails of a slaughtered bull. The controversy continued in 2018 with petitions from the Australian Christian Lobby and the local Coptic Bishop Anba Suriel calling for the removal of inverted crosses situated around Hobart.
In 2019 the Hobart Baptist Church pastor said regarding the Qantas supported Dark Mofo,
It is rather ironic that [Israel] Folau can have his contract cancelled for offending people by quoting the Bible, yet Dark Mofo can openly offend Christians without recourse.
- "International Acts to Headline New Festival". Hobart: Arts Tasmania. 2009. Archived from the original on 27 January 2013. Retrieved 2 February 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter
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- Crane, Ralph (3 June 2015). "Where the dark gets in: why Dark Mofo lightens a crowded calendar", The Conversation. Retrieved 18 July 2018.
- [http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-06-17/spectra-light-tower-at-dark-mofo/4758720 "Dark Mofo lights up the night" (24 June 2013). ABC News. Retrieved 18 July 2018>
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- "Dark MoFo piece censored by art school that commissioned it". ABC News. 15 June 2016. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
- Dunlevie, James (20 June 2017). "Dark Mofo: Anger, exhilaration in wake of Nitsch 150.Action Hobart performance", ABC News. Retrieved 18 July 2018.
- "Petition against Hobart's Dark Mofo inverted crosses demands removal". ABC News. Retrieved 12 June 2018.