Heart-Stopping Art: Dark Mofo

Dark Mofo O-Night Beam in Thine Own Eye Ryoji Ikeda

It’s not often that you are asked to sign an indemnity form prior to viewing an artwork. “…there is a danger of motion sickness, trance-like states and blackouts…” Is that a threat or a promise?

Dark Mofo unfurled in the rain last night; it’s the winter festival masterminded by MONA which strives to be as confronting and provocative as the art (and general theme) of the museum.

Announcing itself with a beam of light into the nebulous sky like batman or an old time picture show, the festival hosted events and installations in adjacent shipping terminals on Hobart’s waterfront. In one: music and a triple-screen video accompaniment. Beanbags, a massive, mostly empty bar practically hidden behind the stage, darkness, gobo projections on the ceiling. Dark Mofo O-Night Opening Launch 100 Million Nights Mac 2

The other, grungier space held a series of art installations designed to complement that huge flashlight, all comprising an exhibition called “Beam in Thine Own Eye”. It asks questions about what we bring to art when we view it, how much do we in fact create our own realities, which direction is that light really flowing anyway?

Dark Mofo O-Night Beam in Thine Own Eye Mac 1

One of the installations, called Zee, is such an intense sensory experience that it is forbidden for pregnant women or children to view it, and everyone else must sign a disclaimer before entering. The large queue to see this work last night showed how alluring this kind of potential “danger” can be. But reports from those who had experienced it suggested that it was anything but pleasant. Nauseating, ear-popping, heart-stopping, overwhelming, yes.

I chose not to queue but may return when there isn’t a crowd. The question is: do I want to partake in art that makes me feel queasy and uncomfortable? Is it like experimenting with drugs, just for the experience? Will I appreciate the point better if I put myself through it?

Or is it the experience that generates the understanding, the right questions, or indeed the answers. Only one way to find out, I guess. And these queries apply to much of the Dark Mofo programme.

Dark Mofo O-Night Opening Launch Logo Mac 1

In any case, with its heaters, mismatched couches, communal blankets (which made minglers look like many storybook red riding-hoods) and big chess set, the exhibition space had a very warm vibe for this O-Night event.

So even though Dark Mofo wants to be as impenetrable as those clouds for that giant beam of light, it still offers some comfort and a friendly atmosphere. Just be prepared for the art to be dangerous.

Dark Mofo O-Night Beam in Thine Own Eye Chess Mac1